PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) - Jack Kunz and Peggy D'orio are familiar with eagles. They've had a nest in their backyard for the last eight years. So they instantly knew something was wrong when they spotted one of the majestic birds -- not flying.
"I was walking the dog out, and all of a sudden I saw the bird walking and I said, 'Oh my god, it's not scared, it's not flying; something must be wrong,'" D'orio recalled.
In came Kris Porter, director of the Owl's Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife, which is a state and federally licensed rehabilitation center. Soon it became clear that this eagle was injured during a territorial fight over the nest.
"She did have a broken wing, the broken ulna," Porter explained.
Porter brought the eagle to the animal hospital at Busch Gardens, where veterinarians have plenty of experience helping injured animals.
"We rescued thousands of animals over the years -- 27,000 animals have actually been rescued and rehabilitated through all of our programs at all of our parks," said Brad Andrews of the Sea World & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.
After they repaired the broken bone, the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey stepped in for the rehabilitation of the eagle
"We opened in 1979," Katie Warner said. "Since then we've rehabilitated and released 540 eagles."
All of these people involved, all of these programs that helped, all of these steps were taken for one moment -- the dramatic release Thursday morning in Port Richey.
In the end, the time and effort and money is worth it for everyone involved.
"It's hard to express. It's probably the biggest reward you can get when working with animals," Porter added, echoing the others' similar sentiments. "I'll do this till I can't do this anymore. That's what I'm meant to do in life."