By Heidi Zemach for SCN –
Alaska SeaLife Center’s wildlife response staff rescued two debilitated adult bald eagles that were found somewhere out along Lowell Point Road last Sunday. The two eagles were each picked up and brought to the Center’s wildlife rescue facility. Both were lethargic. One was assessed, and released to the wild later the same day after he perked up considerably. The second bird was stabilized and transported to the Bird Treatment and Learning Center (Bird TLC) in Anchorage, according to ASLC staff.
Friday afternoon the eagle was still alive, and had been eating, although it was still somewhat “out of it,” said TLC Executive Director Heather Merewood. The report they got was that the eagle had apparently flown up into, and become tangled in a power line at one point, but there were no signs of electrocution on it, as there often is, she said. The TLC also learned that a group of eagles had been observed feeding on a dog carcass somewhere in the Seward area. TLC staff speculated that the eagles may have become lethargic because the dog they had fed on might have been euthanized, and they might have been poisoned when feeding on it. So they treated the eagle for toxicity by administering plenty of fluids with which to flush out its system. They also were treating it with pain medications and antibiotics, Merewood said. She did not believe the eagle had been starving, another frequent cause of lethargy, although he was a little on the skinny side, as it was not showing signs of emaciation.
TLC would likely release it to the wild in Anchorage if and when the eagle recovers. Unlike rescued marine mammals, who often are returned to the area in which they are found to be set free, it wouldn’t be difficult for bald eagles released in Anchorage to find their own way home to Seward if they wanted to go there, she said.
This is nesting season, so bald eagles have been busy pairing up, building nests or refurbishing old ones, and are starting to lay their eggs. She doesn’t advise bystanders get involved in trying to rescue eagles who appear to have been injured, as they have powerful beaks and talons. Rather, observe them, and if need be, contact the Alaska SeaLife Center which has trained staff who can help evaluate them, and pick them up when appropriate.
Of the 600-800 birds TLC receives each year, about 40-60 are American bald eagles, Merewood said. The most common cause of injury, aside from the unknown, is from vehicle collisions.
“They’re scavengers and if there’s something on side of road, they’ll go down there and take advantage of the free food,” Merewood said. With their weight, and a seven foot wing span, it takes the a little bit of time to get up off the ground and fly away when disturbed, and they will often travel along the most obvious runway – the road-as they take off, increasing the chance of being hit. Other common causes of bald eagle injuries TLC typically cares for are snare traps, gunshots, becoming tangles in fishing line, poisoning, and injuries from other bald eagles.
There were actually three cases of injured bald eagles mentioned in recent Seward Police Department Journals last week. The third eagle had apparently had died by the time it was picked up. Its carcass would probably have been sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ National Eagle Repository in Colorado, Merewood said. It is illegal under federal law to have a bald eagle in your possession without a permit, but they are permitted for certain educational uses, and for traditional practices, thus Native Alaskan and Native American groups or individuals can apply to the national repository to obtain eagle feathers, talons or beaks for artwork or ceremonial purposes.
The Alaska SeaLife Center operates a 24-hour hotline for the public to report stranded marine mammals or birds, and encourages people who have found a stranded or sick marine animal to avoid touching or approaching the animal. Call first! 1-888-774-SEAL