By Robin Jenkins, DVM
Peace River Wildlife Center received a frantic call from a landscaper recently. A baby eagle had walked into his open equipment trailer and was just hanging around. He had tried to shoo it away, but it wouldn’t leave. I asked him to take a picture with his cell phone and send it to me.
To his credit, the gentleman was no less concerned about the bird’s health when I explained that it was actually a fancy racing pigeon, not an eagle. We sent a rescuer to pick up the uninjured bird—it was probably just exhausted after being buffeted by strong winds. Luckily, we were able to locate the bird’s owner and return it to him.
So, when we got another call about two male eagles fighting in midair at the other end of the county, we took the call with a grain of salt. But multiple calls from the same area confirmed that there may actually be something to the story. Then another caller claimed that an eagle was walking around their lawn and seemed injured.
Our favorite snow bird husband-and-wife rescue team, Barb and Tom Taylor, were dispatched to check out the situation. Quite often in these cases, as soon as the bird is approached, it takes flight. End of story. This time, the bird ran into some heavy scrub, evidently not willing or able to fly away. So Tom, in his infinite wisdom (and short pants), dove into the jagged palmettos after the bird, and a wacky race ensued. Tom’s shins were shredded, but he caught the bird.
It turns out it was an adult female eagle. Since this is the end of breeding season for these large raptors, she may have been defending her territory or nest from an invading neighbor. She had suffered deep puncture wounds on her legs and a crack on her beak. X-rays (with our beautiful new digital x-ray machine; hooray! Thank you, donors!) showed the crack at the caudal edge of her beak was superficial. After a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs for her leg lesions, she was healing quite well.
The eagle was taken to our 100-foot flight cage to make sure she was capable of flight. She was flying fine, although she walked around the cage like a little old lady—actually, like me after a recent reminder that the law of gravity applies to everyone. She minced and limped with every step. Obviously, her legs were still sore, but the wounds were healing and there was no evidence of infection. After a few days of strength training in the flight cage, she was given thumbs-up for release.
Although her wounds were not completely healed, we wanted to get her back out to her home as soon as possible. Like most wild animals, she will complete the healing process much faster at home than under the additional stress of being in captivity. She may have had a family waiting for her there, although any offspring should have been old enough by this time of year to be okay without her for a few days. And presumably, Dad would have been there to babysit in her absence. And we all know how much Dads appreciate being left alone with the kiddos while Mom goes to the spa for a few days of rest and relaxation.
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