As if regaining her bearings, a rehabilitated bald eagle stood by the White River on Thursday and uncertainly flapped her wings.

After a few minutes, she glided gracefully across the river and perched in a treetop, as the group of people who saved her life applauded.

An area fishing guide found the injured eagle about three weeks ago near the White Hole Resort in Fairview and called the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

AGFC wildlife officers were led to the eagle by a resort employee and took the eagle to Dr. Rob Conner of All Creatures Veterinary Hospital.

“She was very, very sick,” Conner said.

The majestic eagle had a puncture wound in her chest, likely the result of diving for fish in the river and becoming impaled on a stick, Conner said. He cleaned the tissue and removed some feathers around the area, allowing it to heal. The eagle also was given antibiotics, sometimes tucked into her chosen food of small, dead trout donated by the AGFC fish hatchery.

Each day, Conner put fish on the end of a stick, wiggling it before her sharp, curved beak. A picky eater, she dropped ones on the floor that didn’t appeal to her. She quickly swallowed whole the ones that did. Her diet consisted of about 10 small trout a day.

Conner tried to keep human contact to a minimum so she would remain wild and not get used to people, he said. The only place large enough to house the eagle was in a large horse stall in one of the animal hospital’s barns, fitted with a large tree branch.

To help with recovery, Conner allowed the eagle to fly back and forth inside the barn. Although she seemed grateful to her caregivers while she was sick, as she healed, she seemed to become angry at being cooped up in the barn, Conner said.

“She’s ready to go,” Conner said on Wednesday, the day before her release.

Although the animal hospital often takes care of owls, hawks and other wild animals that are found injured, it’s not often Conner is able to rehabilitate an eagle.

“It’s a treat for me,” Conner said. “How many people get to work on an eagle?”

When the eagle was found, AGFC wildlife officers called the state’s eagle rehabilitator at Little Rock Zoo, asking that Conner be allowed to rehabilitate the injured eagle.

“The eagle was going to die if Doc Conner had not rehabilitated it,” said Doug Small, AGFC wildlife officer. The animal hospital rehabilitated the eagle at no charge for the AGFC.

A bald eagle is a protected animal and it is illegal to capture or keep one, Small said. Eagle feathers also are illegal to keep, except for those who have proper American Indian tribal paperwork and use the feathers for religious purposes, according to the National Fish and Wildlife Service. Those who see an injured or dead eagle should immediately call the AGFC and should not touch the bird, Small said.

Usually, when AGFC wildlife officers are informed of a found eagle, the bird is dead, Small said. All dead eagles are sent to the National Fish and Wildlife Service, where an autopsy is conducted to determine how the bird died, Small said.

Once the eagle was fully recovered, AGFC collected data by measuring her. She weighed about 16 pounds and her wingspan stretched 6 feet, 3 inches. They also measured her chest, beak and talons.

As she became stronger, so did the urge to be back in the wild. It was apparent to her caregivers she was ready to go back home, but stormy weather earlier in the week prohibited her release.

“If I see her fly down the river, that’ll be a million bucks,” Conner said.

“I’m glad she’s all right.”