Bald eagle that fled Palo Alto zoo found by hiker, returned home

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A bald eagle that flew away during a demonstration in Palo Alto on Monday was found Friday morning by a hiker in Los Altos.

Sequoia, a 25-year-old eagle is back at the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo after she left her handler during a public flight demonstration at Byxbee Park in Palo Alto on Monday afternoon, director John Aiken said.

Sequoia became agitated by a hawk and wandered away, Aiken said.

The eagle has a radio transmitter attached to one of her tail feathers that helped zoo workers to track her to Palo Alto on Tuesday, but Aiken said they became concerned on Wednesday when they lost the signal, he said.

"When you've got a trained wild eagle anything's possible," Aiken said.

Zoo employees had been searching for Sequoia from dusk to dawn throughout the week, he said.

Aiken asked for help from the public on social media and contacted Palo Alto police, park rangers and Midpeninsula Regional Open Space Preserve to look for her.

The zoo received about 24 sightings of bald eagles all over Northern California and followed up on the most pertinent tips, he said.

Around 9:15 a.m. today, Aiken said he received a text message from a hiker who found Sequoia at Rancho San Antonio County Park and Open Space Preserve in Los Altos.

The hiker agreed to wait at the park and watch over the eagle until Aiken arrived.

The hiker guided Aiken about a mile through a steep area at the northern end of the preserve.

"By time I got to her, gosh, she had flown away," he said.

When Aiken saw Sequoia circling at a nearby canyon, he blew his whistle and she came back to him.

It was "thrilling" to have Sequoia return to the zoo, he said.

Sequoia has been part of the museum and zoo for four years and previously resided at the San Francisco Zoo, Aiken said.

Sequoia was found shot in Humboldt County in 1988 when she was 4 months old and was stabilized, but her injury stopped her from getting released into the wild, he said.

A bullet had struck one of her toes and lead scattered to her pelvis, according to Aiken.

She was left with a paralyzed tail, which prevents her from catching prey from mid-air, he said.

Sequoia was taken to the San Francisco Zoo after she was treated for her injury and Aiken became one of the first people to train her. When the zoo closed its eagle program, she was transferred to the Palo Alto Junior
Museum and Zoo, Aiken said.

Sequoia is owned by the federal government and was deemed an educational ambassador, according to Aiken.

Her departure this week was "first runner up" on the list of times Sequoia has strayed away, Aiken said.

About 10 years ago, she left San Francisco Zoo and was found a week later in Santa Cruz, Aiken said.

Sequoia has ventured off by herself but always managed to find her way back, he said.

"She's getting older and when she's out we're getting a bit more concerned whether she can keep up with other wild eagles," Aiken said.

Aiken said he and a fellow zoo employee plan on looking into better technology that can help them locate Sequoia more quickly.