The front page of the Sun-Gazette's Outdoor section on April 1 made master falconer Michael Kuriga, of DuBoistown, look twice.
On it, a golden eagle lands atop a carrion pile in Tuscarora State Forest.
Kuriga believes the eagle is the one he lost about five years ago.
"The odds were extremely rare to see it again," he said.
In one of the photos, which were taken by trail cameras placed as part of the Golden Eagle Project, leg cuffs, or jesses, can be seen on the raptor.
"There it was, and I thought, 'Oh, my gosh,' " Kuriga said.
With his curiosity sparked, he visited the state forest's Facebook page to get a closer look at the bird.
The additional photos posted by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources solidified his belief that the eagle indeed could be Arrow, the bird he lost.
"If it's not my bird, it's someone else's," he said. "At this point, I can show you cuffs that look the same. I know my equipment and we all make our own. It's like a thumbprint right there."
Kuriga said he lost Arrow in 2007 while doing a program for forestry students at Pennsylvania College of Technology's Allenwood campus.
"Some crows came off the landfill and started to harass him, and he went up to about 1,000 feet," he said.
Arrow flew higher and higher and started to drift downwind.
"Now I didn't worry too much because I had transmitters attached to the tail mounts and when I got the receiver out, I had the signals," Kuriga said.
But the signals started to drop off.
"That would be an indication he came down to the ground someplace and was over a hill," Kuriga said.
Then he lost the signal.
His transmitter could broadcast a signal for a 15-mile line of site, so he realized his equipment had failed.
"My receiver lost one of its stages in its receiving path and the signal was dropping off exponentially," he said.
He searched for the bird for weeks but couldn't find it. It was March, the height of the golden eagle migration period.
After he saw the photo published by the Sun-Gazette, Kuriga contacted Dr. Todd Katzner, a research assistant professor with West Virginia University's Division of Forestry and Natural Resources. Katzner is in charge of the Golden Eagle Project, for which the photos are used.
"We saw the bird in the images and were surprised to see jesses on its legs. Surprised and shocked," Katzner said.
Katzner said they talked about how Kuriga could identify the bird from the images.
"I saw these cuffs, here on the left," Kuriga said, pointing to a computer screen during a recent interview. "It's worn off, the one on the right, but still shows a bit of overlapping of the buffalo hide I use."
The cuffs are one of three parts of a piece of equipment called Aylmeri jesses. Taken as a whole, the jesses help control a bird.
Aylmeri jesses include:
Bracelets or cuffs that are fitted around the tarsus part of the hawk's foot;
Mews jesses with a swivel slit that are fitted on the hawk when it is tethered; and
Slitless field jesses, which are fitted whenever the hawk is flown free.
Aylmeris are required by law.
Kuriga said he can tell that the eagle is wearing his cuff because he can compare the stitching to others he now has. He hand makes the cuffs.
"I can tell by the way it's stitched, that is my bird," he said.
In addition, he said he can see a small marker on the cuff that he called a falconry, or wildlife, marker.
"I had to blow up the picture to see that," he said.
DCNR 'not sure'
Steve Shaffer, DCNR state forest ranger, also talked with Kuriga. Shaffer said he called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and, between he and Katzner, they came up with a list of permitees who had golden eagles that were lost.
He said it was only a handful of birds, and one was ruled out right away.
"I haven't seen the comparison and I know nothing about the falconry end of it," Shaffer said.
Shaffer said images from trail cameras do not produce photos as clear as those from digital cameras, so when a photograph is cropped and magnified, it can become blurry.
"I am really not sure," Shaffer said. "I can't comment on this bird."
Kuriga has perused more of the photos on the forest's Facebook page and has seen the bird he thinks is Arrow in a few shots.
A female golden eagle, which has been seen with the bird Kuriga believes is his, wears a transmitter and recently has been tracked in northern Canada.
"This is the one the researchers got excited about because there is one of their study birds," Kuriga said.
The female was trapped earlier in the year as part of the Golden Eagle Project. The project measures the migration and distribution of golden eagles from Canada to the Appalachia Mountains.
The female eagle's transmitter shows scientists her movements at any given time.
"And, look right there, you can see a silver band, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife band," Kuriga said, pointing at the female bird on the computer screen.
"I think the chances are very good that it is the bird he lost. There are very few falconers who have permission to have golden eagles, and we know when they get lost," Katzner said.
Katzner said this is a first-time occurrence for the study.
"This is the first time we have seen such a thing on our cameras," he said, referring to the jesses on the bird that possibly could be Arrow.
Arrow was trapped in Wyoming in 2003, with Kuriga's fellow master falconer and friend, Jack Hubley, who also has a permit to possess golden eagles.
The two currently are the only people in the state with permits for golden eagles. In North America, only 35 people are permitted to fly golden eagles, to date.
Arrow was a depredating bird and was killing sheep.
As Hubley finished setting up the trap to catch the eagle, Kuriga wandered around the area and found what he called "the most perfect arrowhead" that he now has in his collection. So, he named the bird Arrow.
Arrow was a fantastic rabbit hunter, he said.
"That bird caught every rabbit it saw," Kuriga said. "It was a fantastic hunting bird."
He hopes that informing Katzner and Shaffer of the bird being in this area keeps the eagle to the forefront of their studies.
"Now they know the age of this bird and know where it was trapped," Kuriga said.
He said he would be happy to recapture the eagle but has no definitive plans to do so.
"I was elated to see the bird," Kuriga said. "I would be very pleased to recover him, but I am happier I have seen him and (know) he is doing well."