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Fly high, Ozzie

By Staff | Oct 7, 2015

We were among those shocked to hear this week that Ozzie, the patriarch of a popular eagle pair whose nesting habits have been followed worldwide, had succumbed to injuries suffered just weeks after his release from an unrelated rehabilitation at CROW on Sanibel.

While we understand the inclination to anthropomorphize the pair, we’ll leave that to others as the majesty of the raptors and their long history in North Fort Myers is story enough for us.

The mated pair dubbed Ozzie and Harriet are believed to have staked out their nesting territory off and around Bayshore Road more than 20 years ago.

When their long-time nest site was no longer available to them, they moved a short distance away, building a new nest in a towering pine on the Dick Pritchett Real Estate property.

Thinking others might want to enjoy seeing nature unfold, the Pritchett family launched the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam.

Using non-obtrusive and silent cameras, strategically placed, viewers got a 24-7 look into the life of an American bald eagle nesting pair. From mating behavior and nest enhancement to the laying of eggs, from eaglet hatching to nurturing and feeding, from fledging to flight, the cam provided a unique look at an annual lifecycle.

And it was an immediate success.

During the 2012-2013 nesting season – October through May – an estimated 16 million viewers logged on to watch Ozzie and Harriet successfully raise a brood of two.

But, as fans learned the very next season, nature isn’t a Disney movie – the pair lost one of their nestlings, as they did this year as well.

Then Ozzie was found injured, perhaps after colliding with a car. His rehab with a broken clavicle healed at CROW was followed closely, and his release back home in June was greeted with, literally, worldwide jubilation.

But 20-plus years is old for an eagle in the wild. A younger male, whose age was estimated at 5, moved in to take over the nesting territory and the two fought, with Ozzie breaking bones in his feet and suffering some wounds as he fought to retain his turf.

He was found on the ground in a North Fort Myers yard on Sunday, with two broken toes and some deep gashes, including some caused by an entanglement with barbed wire.

Ozzie was brought back to CROW and it was hoped that, with treatment and some strong antibiotics, he would survive.

He did not.

Despite the efforts of one of the most qualified teams in the country to affect successful treatment and recovery, Ozzie died Tuesday night, most likely due to the extent of the infection that had entered his bloodstream.

The Southwest Florida Eagle Cam has said it best: He is flying free forever.

We thank the Pritchett family for allowing a world community to come together for a common experience we were all lucky to share.

As of Thursday, the cameras were turned back on, as they have been for the last three years at the start of the nesting season. Harriet is still on-site and the cycle of life continues.

A big thank you is also due to CROW. The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife does a stellar job of protecting, rescuing, treating, rehabbing and releasing not only injured eagles, but native creatures of all kinds.

Donations are always needed and are always welcome.

The Southwest Florida Eagle cam may be viewed at dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html

To make a donation, or for more information on CROW, visit crowclinic.org .

– Citizen editorial