The release says "First he was simply called "The Manistee Eagle," indicating the county where he was rescued. Now he's dubbed "Mighty Mac" in honor of the location where he'll be released back into the wild on Tuesday, Oct. 4."

Courtesy Michigan Department of Transportation. Used by permission.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority is assisting in the release of bald eagle Mighty Mac with Wings of Wonder (WOW), the Empire-based raptor sanctuary and rehabilitation center. The current plan is for a release from either a bridge tower or from an anchor pier, the location where the bridge's main cables connect to piers, depending on wind conditions, logistics of getting the bird to the tower top, and precautions taken for the bird's health and safety. The release is tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m.

"Anyone who has ever attended the release of a rehabilitated raptor knows just how amazing it can be to witness," Mackinac Bridge Authority chairman William Gnodtke said. "To have Mighty Mac, a symbol of our nation, released from our iconic bridge will be both thrilling and inspiring."

Rescue group Wings of Wonder founder Rebecca Lessard said she believes Mighty Mac was suffering from West Nile Virus, which is exhibited by respiratory distress, similar to influenza, in birds. However, without care, raptors often die not from the disease, but instead starve to death when they can't hunt. Mighty Mac was in the WOW intensive care clinic for 48 hours, where he received vital fluids and medical attention.

"He responded quite well to treatment, which means he was rescued just in time,"  Lessard said. "Mighty Mac graduated from intensive care to a small flight pen designed to restrict flying. He is now in a larger 100-foot flight pen where he has been stretching his wings and building his aerobic conditioning."

He is fully rehabilitated and strong, which makes him a good candidate for the release from the Mackinac Bridge, Lessard said. He is estimated to be between 7 and 10 years old, weighs about 10 pounds, and has a wingspan of roughly 6 feet.

At a typical release, the raptor to be released would be transported in a crate, then held briefly before being set free. If this release is to be done from the tower, Mighty Mac will need to be placed in a custom-made crate for his trip up through the tower elevator and ladder system. Lessard and bridge staff will need to monitor winds that day to determine whether a tower release is safe and practical.

Source: M-DOT release