Two bald eagles are once again soaring in the skies of East Tennessee, thanks to months of rehabilitation by the American Eagle Foundation.
Both raptors were found injured in May.
Kim Osborne found the first one in the backyard of her Sevier County home. The eagle was bleeding from several puncture wounds and could only hop around on the ground. Wildlife officials believed it was hurt in a fight with another bald eagle. Veterinarians later discovered a healed gunshot wound on the bird.
The second eagle was found a few weeks later on a farm near the Knox/Union County line. Lt. Col. Patrick Wade, who serves in the Tennessee Army National Guard, spotted the bird on the ground. It had a fractured bone in it's shoulder that prevented it from flying.
Both contacted wildlife officials and got the birds to the University of Tennessee Veterinary School, where they were diagnosed and treated.
Then, the American Eagle Foundation (AEF), based at Dollywood, took the raptors in until they were healed. The two were named "Trump" and "Pence" before being let go.
"They were ready to go," said Al Cecere, founder of the AEF, as a small group gathered at Douglas Lake to release the two fully healed bald eagles.
One at a time, the two magnificent birds were thrown into the air and flew away into the trees.
"They were ready to go," said Cecere. Both birds were fully mature when they were found, and couldn't wait to get back to the wild.
Cecere has been a part of hundreds of eagle releases, but said each one is special.
The moment was even more special for the eagles' two rescuers, who have both kept in touch with the AEF to find out how the birds were doing.
"It's a proud moment for me to be a part of," said Wade.
"It's amazing to see the bird recovered, healed, and being able to fly into the woods," said Osborne.