Jul 24, 2011

Golden Eagle Rescue

When Norm first noticed the injured golden eagle on his property, he began looking for help. He called everywhere he could think of. Some places told him they'd treat the bird if he could get it to them - easier said than done for a man in is 80s, even as fit as he is. Other's told Norm to let nature takes its course - to leave it be. No one would come to his aid for the animal.

On the private estate located in the rugged wilderness off Highway 152 in Gilroy, the majestic bird traveled between a stand of oak trees and a gulch of monkey flower and sagebrush, remaining close to where it had fallen - underneath a mass of high-voltage power lines - probably the cause of its damaged wing. Researchers suggest that power line casualties, in California alone, may be as high as 4.6 million birds per year as they are somewhat invisible to birds. Read more, HERE.

Over the nest week or so, Norm helped keep the bird alive by tossing it rats, mice, and chicken when he had it. 

Finally, WildRescue received word of the eagle and immediately went into action. Here is their account of the rescue:

We arrived mid-morning. The fog had lifted, it was sunny and getting warm.

The bird was down slope, in the gulch. When it saw us, it tried to escape, but couldn't get airborne - instead, it went under, disappearing into thick brush.

We split the team in two - one group stayed high, as spotters. The other group, (Deanna, Amir, and i) used an old dirt PGE access road to get directly below where the bird was last observed. 

We spread out and began our ascent through the coastal sagebrush in a V-formation - the search pattern we typically use in rescues. 

With no sign of the eagle, Amir went higher to try and flush the bird, but, again, no luck - the bird was not where we'd thought. Deanna and i began to close in, working toward Amir's position. We believed it had tunneled into a thicket of Western bracken fern.

Suddenly, and VERY much to my surprise, the eagle sprang from the foliage no more than 8' above me, talons outstretched, wings spread to near 6' and i recall a nanosecond of direct and piercing eye contact. I instinctively dodged left, feathers and talons shot off to the right. The bird began disappearing under the brush again, but i managed to get hold of its uninjured wrist and then its good shoulder, and then, with gloved hands, i gained control of the eagle's talons.

Deanna and Amir were quick to help get the bird's head and wings contained in a lightweight pillow case where it would be calmer and easier to manage as we made it out of the ravine.


Back at the vehicle the bird was placed into a large dog carrier, covered, and placed into an air-conditioned van for transport to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley. ~ Rebecca

On arrival, the bird was quickly examined by the Center's wildlife clinician. The eagle, weighing in at 7 pounds, was thin and dehydrated, but very alert. It had suffered a dislocation of its shoulder, again, very likely due to the transmission lines. Radiographs will be taken today, but the prognosis is not good. The animal was given fluids, antibiotics, and pain medication. We will update this entry as we receive word of the bird's condition.

Many, many, many thanks to Norm, Amir, and Julie for their determination in finding help for this bird. Also, we are very grateful for the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley for their efforts. You can visit them online at WCSV

Watch video of the rescue, HERE.

UPDATE: 8-1-2011

Sad news to report: This morning, in preparation for surgery, detailed radiographs revealed the bones of the wing could not be repaired, as once thought, and the eagle was allowed to pass on. Thank you - everyone who rallied for this bird and WCSV's efforts to see it fly free again.

What we need to take away from this tragedy is that it could have had a very different ending had the bird been rescued sooner. It was a week before we got word, despite the finder's numerous calls, looking for help. We must make sure these places know that we are reachable 24/7.