Thursday, July 19, 2012
Injured eagle lifted by helping hands
By David Horst firstname.lastname@example.org
WEYAUWEGA – Healing hands loosen their grip and, with a few quick beats of powerful wings, a bald eagle lifts into an endless blue sky, back to where he belongs.
That he can fly at all is testament to the power of luck – and people who care.
A month earlier, the eagle was diving in to feed on a muskrat carcass. It’s the nature of a scavenger, and the reason Ben Franklin thought he was unfit to be the national symbol.
Unfortunately, the muskrat had met its end on a 65 mph segment of State 10 near Fremont. The eagle swooped into the path of a moving pickup truck.
“He sees this flash of brown and, before he knows it, it was in his grille,” Department of Natural Resources warden Ted Dremel said of the driver.
It was about 6:30 a.m. Brian Baker of Pittsville was on his way to work in Appleton.
He saw the eagle fly north over the highway, but didn’t expect it to circle back.
The force of the collision smashed the grille and left the eagle embedded in the front of the truck – his head, wings and one leg snagged by the broken plastic.
“It’s not something you’re expecting,” Baker said.
The first act of caring was Baker stopping and calling the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Department for help. They, in turn, called out Dremel.
The bird was dazed but conscious, Dremel said, “and very mad, and not liking me.”
With a short pair of leather gloves as his only protection, Dremel worked the bird free of the grille, grabbed it by the wing and leg and, with the help of the deputies, stowed it in a dog carrier.
“Every time I grab (an eagle), I’m always amazed at how strong they are,” he said.
Baker stayed around to help, and even called in later to check on the eagle. Dremel asked if he’d be in trouble for being late to work. Baker explained he had taken a photo of the bird with his phone and sent it to his boss at Intercon Construction. His boss told him to stay and do whatever was needed to help with the eagle.
“The bird as very lucky in the type of people he ran into,” Dremel said.
The bird’s next piece of luck was New London bird rehabilitator Pat Fisher being called in. She operates The Feather Bird Rehabilitation Center near New London.
Fisher turned to James Ziegler, a New London veterinarian who treats her rehab cases gratis. Incredibly, his examination turned up no broken bones, only damaged flight feathers, bruising and signs of concussion.
Ziegler said his role really was to verify that the eagle could be rehabilitated and then to give it healing time.
“It just really became a community concern,” he said of the volunteers who helped.
It took a month of Fisher’s care, but the eagle recovered.
Her thank you to Ziegler was to let him release the eagle, which we did Sunday, Jan. 15.
The eagle was removed from a cardboard box and handed to Ziegler, who wore arm-length leather gloves. The bird flapped and struggled and glared at Ziegler.
“They’re so powerful. You feel like they’re going to lift you off of the ground,” he said.
Ziegler lifted the mighty bird, let it go free and watched if fly over a farm field, bank left and keep flying beyond the treeline.
Fisher wiped away tears, as she does at each release. Ziegler smiled. They embraced.
They may never see the eagle again. Without them, none of us would.