Incredible story of bald eagle that stole fisherman’s shark: How raptor almost died at birth, was saved by vets and is now a local celebrity in Tampa
- A bald eagle went viral last week when it swooped stole a shark from a fisherman’s line and devoured it on the shore in front of the Florida fishermen
- The eagle was recognized by locals as Eugene, a bird who almost died at birth and has been rehabilitated twice at the same Florida wildlife center
- Eugene fell 100 feet and severely broke her left leg in 2017 when she was first taken to Audubon Center for Birds of Prey where she underwent surgery
- The center spent an estimated $10,000 on her recovery including physical therapy, electro-acupuncture and laser healing treatments
- She returned to the wildlife center after being found at the Manatee County Jail
- Eugene was re-released in 2018 before disappearing for several years
- Locals began to spot her again last November before she went viral last week
A bald eagle went viral last week when it swooped in to steal a shark from a Florida fisherman and devoured it in front of an awestruck family. It wasn’t the first time she’s been spotted.
The video was shared online and made headlines when locals, including Becky Young, began to recognize the bird.
Young, a convenience store manager and volunteer for Eagle Watch, began monitoring a bird’s nest near her home and a Shell station in 2017.
She named one of the birds Eugene, before realizing ‘he’ was a ‘she.’
When the raptor was nearly full-grown at 10 weeks, it fell about 100 feet from a cell tower when the other young bald eagles were leaving the nest for the first time.
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A bald eagle went viral when she stole a small shark off the line from a Florida fisherman
Before the fishermen could grab the catch, the bald eagle swooped in and attacked the shark
They cut the line and got the hook away from the eagle as she devoured her meal on the shore
Locals recognized the eagle as Eugene, who has been rehabilitated in the area twice before
The hurt bird was taken in by volunteers from Wildlife Inc. in Bradenton Beach with a severely broken leg. She was then taken to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland where she underwent surgery despite staff leaning towards an unfavorable outcome.
Eugene underwent a 90-minute surgery placing metal pins in her left leg.
Shawnlei Breeding, manager of the Audubon EagleWatch Project at the center, still wasn’t optimistic when the pins came out a month later. ‘Her movement in that leg, and her pain response in that foot. … We really didn’t know,’ she told the Tampa Bay Times.
The center spent an estimated $10,000 on her recovery including physical therapy, electro-acupuncture and laser healing treatments. She was moved to the flight barn where Eugene learned to fly and hunt practicing catching fish in the barn’s pond.
Seven months after being taken into the facility, Eugene was set free in Sarasota.
Young came to the ceremonious day and watched Eugene take off. ‘Then she crash-landed,’ Young said. ‘Right into a pond.’
After being monitored for a while longer, Eugene was eventually set free that day.
But she didn’t stay free for long, Eugene returned to the wildlife center when she was found at the Manatee County Jail on an inmate work farm. She was identified from the Audubon Center’s ankle band.
A corrections deputy notified Devon Straight, a volunteer with Wildlife Inc., who said the bird was underweight and probably too weak to fly.
Eugene was taken back to the flight barn where she practiced hunting and flying before being re-released in Polk County in 2018.
She disappeared for a few years before being seen at the Manatee County Landfill last November.
Young rushed over to the landfill, which is a popular spot for eagles, and was happy to see the bird had returned to the area- the landfill is only a few miles from the cell tower where she was hatched.
Witnesses spotted the eagle earlier this month while she was eating a dead mullet floating off the Dunedin Causeway near Clearwater.
Then last week, Eugene went viral when she stole a small shark off the line from a Florida fisherman.
Chad Rissman and his uncle Darrin Vick were out fishing on the Dunedin Causeway when they caught a small shark. ‘I was reeling it in my uncle was going to grab the line. As the leader is coming up, I said I’d get a hold of the shark,’ Vick said.
But before he could grab the catch, the bald eagle swooped in and attacked the shark. They cut the line and got the hook away from the eagle as she devoured her meal on the shore in front of the small crowd.
‘The way everything lined up, the sunset; I couldn’t have asked for a better time,’ Rissman said. His wife Amanda captured the stunning moment on video and shared it on TikTok.
‘It’s just like brushing the greatness of the country all into one picture and one experience,’ Vick said.