A bald eagle rescued in the Skagway area is now recuperating in Sitka at the Alaska Raptor Center.
The center is currently overseeing the raptor’s recovery after it was transported there following the rescue and a brief stint at the Juneau Raptor Center.
The bald eagle was reported on April 10 to Jami Belt, natural resource program manager with the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Since Skagway doesn’t have a rehabilitation center, the eagle needed to be sent on to a proper facility.
Belt said that the eagle had been sitting on the ground at West Creek in Dyea.
A resident was out dog-walking, and the canine ran towards the bald eagle. The eagle did not fly away, which was the first clue that something was wrong. A group of concerned rescuers, including Belt, Brandon Lawrence, Joanne and Andrew Beierly and Deb Boettcher set out to observe the eagle and see what was amiss.
“We went out and looked at it, and couldn’t see a super obvious injury,” Belt said. In that kind of a situation, where there is no obvious injury, Belt said it is best not to rush in.
“Eagles can overeat, they can get waterlogged, there’s a handful of things that can cause them to not fly,” Belt said.
The concerned rescuers talked with Dorothy Brady, who’s home was closest to where the eagle was. Brady agreed to watch the raptor overnight, and the rescuers decided to let the bird alone for the evening. The following morning, Brady reported the eagle was still there, and still not flying.
Collection of people including Belt, Brady, Boettcher, the Beierlys, Justin Kennedy and Shawn Jones set out on April 11 to capture the eagle and settle it into a kennel.
“To capture an eagle, there’s a variety of different ways to do it,” Belt said. “Any bird, if you can get it where it can’t see, they get subdued pretty easily. First strategy was to try and throw something over its head, a sheet, so that was what we did.”
The crew surrounded the eagle, and blocked it from running off into the creek where it could potentially get more injured. Kennedy was able to toss a sheet over the eagle’s head, and the Beierlys added a second sheet to the first as a precaution, according to Belt.
“Once that happened, it really kind of sat still, they really don’t know what to do when you cover their eyes,” Belt said. “Once it was covered like that then we were able to put our hands over its wings and lay it on its side.
“I had gloves on and reached in and grabbed its talons…that’s really the scariest part of an eagle.”
According to the Skagway Bird Club, Alaska Seaplanes then transported it to the Juneau Raptor Center, which stabilized the eagle with IV fluids. The Juneau Raptor Center then arranged to send the eagle to the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka.
Jennifer Cedarleaf, avian director with the Alaska Raptor Center, said the eagle – which center staff have named Roo, after the Year of the Rooster – had multiple cuts and wounds on her head and face.
Roo is also suffering from a broken left coracoid – a bone in an eagle’s body that helps support their shoulder.
“She is able to fly, but not really well,” Cedarleaf said. A veterinarian was unable to move the injured bone when examining Roo, which makes the raptor center think the coracoid is already healing.
“And if that’s the case, there’s not a lot we can do to fix it, we’ll just have to see how she does when she starts being able to fly again,’ Cedarleaf said.
Roo was also suffering from an infection, which she was given antibiotics to treat. At press time, Cedarleaf said Roo was in a smaller enclosure while the antibiotics were working, after which the eagle will be moved to a larger enclosure with other birds.
What lays in Roo’s future depends on how well that bone heals.
“We’ve had coracoid issues that we’ve been able to release, but most of the time their flight…they are a lot weaker on the one side,” Cedarleaf said. “So in her case, because it’s the left side, she might be weaker on the left side and not be able to get the lift that she needs to fly. So we’re just going to have to kind of wait and see what happens.”
If Roo cannot fly well enough for release, Cedarleaf said she will begin looking for a home for her in a zoo or educational facility.
Belt encouraged anyone who sees an injured bird to call the police department, and not to take action on their own.
The police have an emergency bird rescue call list, and know who to contact to deal with the situation safely. The police dispatch number is (907) 983-2232.
Feeding an injured bird should also be avoided, Belt said.
“It’s important to understand that you don’t always rush in and rescue a bird,” Belt said. “In the situation that we had, it ended up that we did rescue the eagle, but it could have easily happened that we came back the next day and it was gone, and rescuing it would have put a lot of undue stress on it for no outcome for the eagle.”