Bald Eagle Rescue
© Daryl L. Hunter
Juvenile Bald Eagle, Swan Valley, Idaho
- Game and Fish officers Shane Liss and Brain Jack herding eagle to safe capture position.
On Thursday, June 13, I was diligently working away on my book when the phone rang, I answer and it is my photographer buddy Bill Drake. Well Bill explained that he is with a golden eagle that can’t fly and not being far from my home in Swan Valley Idaho, he asked whether I knew the local Game and Fish people so we could rescue this eagle. I told Bill we could do something, I just wasn’t sure what yet.
Shane Liss the Swan Valley Game and Fish officer lives a few doors down so I went over and asked whether they could do something and Shane said he could but needed to wait for assistance. I told Shane I’d be down with Bill and the eagle and made sure Shane had my cell number.
I rendezvoused with Bill and took a few photos of the hapless eagle. When Bill had arrived it had been hanging out in the middle of a dirt road that abutted the South Fork of the Snake River, not a good place for an apparently flightless eagle. We then waited for Game and Fish to arrive; we didn’t want to pressure the eagle. While wiling away the time Bill and I had been watching a Bald Eagle across the river watching us.
Bill and I were soon deep into swapping lies and wildlife photographer shoptalk, when the bald eagle circled over us then hovered for a second twenty yards above our heads, as they do when they spot a fish. Bill and I grabbed our cameras for a quick “on the wing shot. The bald eagle upon our commotion flew off.
- Bald Eagle in Flight circling overhead
Bill and I while pondering why the flightless eagle was just sitting there we figured it might be a fledgling that had just found a brand-new perspective and didn’t know how to handle it and he was now grounded and confused. Dang it was huge, but I was troubled that despite its size it didn’t have the brightly colored golden, brown, and reddish feathers of an adult golden. Bill and I having assumed this was a disabled golden eagle, we thought the bald eagle was sizing it up for lunch. The bald eagle settled on a branch much closer than his original perch across the river and waited
Officer Liss soon showed up with Officer Brain Jack, and we discussed the situation. With a plan formulated Shane and Brian dropped down the riverbank to drive the eagle to the west side of the road where there was a steep bank. After a bit of herding and wrangling the young eagle was soon safely in the grasp of Officer Jack.
Officer Liss, speculated this was an unfortunate juvenile who lost the hierarchy battle with a sibling and was kicked out of the nest, a seemingly cruel reality of birds of prey. When adult raptors can’t provide enough food, the stronger chicks will deprive weaker chicks of food.
- Officers Shane Liss and Brain Jack inspect the eagle for injury
After the eagle was secured and safe and on its way to a raptor rehab center Bill went along on our way. Bill went searching for a king fisher nest, I went home, and processed my photos then wrote a blog post of the unique experience and posted it.
After publishing the blog article I had a nagging feeling that I didn’t have the story right. The assumed golden was in bald eagle territory and although the two types of eagles’ territories overlap, where I usually see golden eagles hunting is in meadows and valleys and bald eagles at the rivers, we were next to a river full of bald eagle food.
I later phoned Officer Jack and asked what were the chances that this was a bald eagle chick instead of a golden, evidently the Game and Fish officers had been pondering the same question. After Bill and I left they reinspected the bird more scrupulously and had determined it was a bald eagle chick and not a golden, so they chose a different course of action. The adult bald was not, as assumed, a predator, it was a concerned parent and a bunch of do-gooders intervened in the midst of some flying lessons that weren’t going so well with a seemingly reluctant student.
Office Jack and Officer Liss instead of taking this young eagle to the raptor center decided to take him up on the hill to a higher vantage point, away from the road, river, and do-gooders, where its concerned parent could have another go at coaxing the youngster into the sky. On the hill above he was out of the danger of the road and away from the uncertainty of outcome had it been spooked into the fast moving river.
- Bill Drake with his new best friend
This lucky juvenile had the good fortune (we hope) of having Bill come along and set in motion a rescue plan that removed the chic from a seemingly perilous spot to another with more promise.
I hope that today this chic has found the magic in his wings and is soaring above the South Fork hunting for trout.
This is a rewrite of a previous post where I had assumed this was a golden eagle rescue. Several astute readers had deduced this was a bald eagle chic before I had time to rewrite the article, and I thank them for their contribution, I apologize for not rewrite the blog as soon as I found out, but I had already been borrowing time from elsewhere. Whether I was a rescuer of an imperiled bird or meddlesome misguided do-gooder interfering in the process of nature, this was an experience I will not soon forget!
Officer Jack transports eagle to inspection area
Officer Liss calms eagle before putting it in holding cage.