The return of an escaped golden eagle to a rescue centre in Co Antrim caught the public’s imagination like something from the film “Lassie Come Home”, the founder of the World of Owls sanctuary has said.
The beautiful animal, named Griff, escaped from World of Owls in Randalstown last month while his enclosure was being cleaned.
But, despite owner Mike Gibb having driven “hudreds of miles” trying to find him, the bird with the 6-ft wingspan was spotted just half a mile from the rescue centre.
“It’s a real relief,” he told the News Letter.
“We were becoming increasingly worried about him — he was a captive bred eagle so he didn’t have any natural instincts for hunting himself.
“I have done roughly between six and eight hundred miles in the van out looking for him and we ended up finding him half-a-mile away from his home.”
He continued: “I don’t think he’d left the area. We were getting sightings all over — even in Scotland and in case London!
“Maybe it’s because people were looking to the skies for the first time and didn’t realise just how big our buzzards in Northern Ireland can be.
“I had a gut feeling that he would be in and around the forest somewhere but we had to follow up on the sightings we were getting.”
Describing how Griff was finally found, he said: “A girl was out running in the forest and spotted him. He had swooped down onto the path in front of her. I think it gave her a real fright to see a great big eagle just standing on the path.
“And another woman who was out walking her wee dog and she stood with him for around an hour-and-a-half until we could get there.”
He added: “He was really hungry and really tired. So it’s a real relief because it could have gone a lot worse.
“It really captured everyone’s imagination. It was like Lassie Come Home or something and it’s great news. I would say thank you to every person who called us.”