ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - An osprey that was shot earlier in the year was released back into the wild on Monday.
"I'm not going to hold him on my arm, I'm just going to hold him," raptor caregiver Taylor Bass told FOX 13 before she pulled the adult male osprey from a cage. "The eye fleck in his eye is why they call him Flicka."
A minute later, Bass counted to three and threw Flicka into the air. He immediately headed west, leaving a park heavily occupied by other ospreys.
"I hope Flicka's gone. I hope that he can be thriving out there and making more babies and catching fish," Bass said.
The bird's survival defied several odds. He is the only survivor among half a dozen big birds that were shot over the past four nesting seasons within a close proximity to St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood.
Flicka now flies with a bullet lodged in his pectoral muscle.
"When [Busch Gardens] did the x-ray, they decided not to remove the bullet due to not wanting to cause further harm to any of the muscles or the tendons or the tissue that was there," Bass explained.
His wound was treated with cold laser therapy at a local animal hospital, and Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary provided access to a "flight cage" where he could spread his wings and exercise.
Eight months of confinement was also life-threatening. Ospreys are big, high energy fish-eaters who usually decline and perish in captivity.
"This one just really proved himself," Bass said.
Donations to the Tampa Bay Raptor Rescue have created a reward for information leading to the arrest of Shore Acres' unknown serial shooter of large birds. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission's "Wildlife Alert Program" can be reached at 888-404-3922.