MOUNT DIABLO (KPIX 5) — After months of hospital rehabilitation for lead poisoning, a rescued golden eagle finally had enough strength to go back to the wild Thursday.

It has been a long journey for the eagle. Rancher Jennifer Sanders says her husband first spotted the sick bird last December.

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“My husband was checking cows one day and saw her lying on the ground,” said Sanders. “Saw the eagle lying on the ground, where they don’t belong!”

Doctor Allison Daugherty is chief veterinarian at the Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital. She said early on, it was touch and go.

“Were we seeing any improvement in this bird? Things like that,” said Daugherty. “And it was hard, because the changes and improvements we saw were subtle. So we were kind of like, ‘How much time do we give this bird?'”

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The eagle survived, but there was another problem. While it was away, hawks moved in and took over the eagle’s territory. The hawks attacked the eagle the moment it returned.

The wildlife folks predict that the eagle will reclaim its neighborhood in short order. It’s believed the bird may have been poisoned by eating dead prey containing lead shot.

Starting July 1, lead ammunition will be banned. That should help future raptors from lead poisoning.

Sanders says she still gets excited seeing the eagles soar over her ranch.

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“You do see ’em a lot, but you don’t see ’em a lot here in the Bay Area,” Sanders said. “They’re pretty cool!”