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Grounded!

Grounded!Tufts wildlife experts examine a bald eagle after it attacked five New England beachgoers.

No. Grafton, Mass. [08.28.01] A bald eagle received national media attention last week, after attacking five people on New England beaches. Contact with humans, say Tufts wildlife experts who examined the bird, may be the cause of the animal's aggressive behavior.

"It's hungry, it's skinny and it sees humans and thinks there must be food," Tufts' Dawn Kelly told the New Hampshire Union Leader.

The wildlife veterinary technician was part of a team of experts from Tufts' School of Veterinary Medicine that examined and tested the eagle after it was caught on Wednesday. So far, they report the bird is in good health and its test results appear to be normal.

That's good news for the eagle, which had several scuffles with beachgoers and state wildlife officials before it was finally caught on Wednesday.

"The eagle was the talk of the [Hampton Beach] boardwalk," reported the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune. "Practically everyone had heard about its antics of days past -- clawing at footballs, swooping down amid hundreds of people for food, even knocking over a frightened but uninjured 3-year-old from Albany, NY."

The behavior was probably a result of regular contact with humans -- some may have even been feeding the bird, reported the Charlotte Observer.

But the Tufts experts are also looking for evidence that environmental contaminants, such as mercury, may have affected the eagle's behavior.

For now, state and federal wildlife officials are still deciding where the eagle will be released.

But the eagle probably won't return to the wild, reported the AP, because it is just too comfortable with humans.

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