Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Harrowing Rescue Tail

Back in June of this year strong tornados came through southern Wisconsin taking down power lines and causing damage to homes of both people and animals alike. In the days after the storms had passed, one call we received was a caring woman who had a young a bald eagle that she thought was in need of help. Here at the Wildlife In Need Center we generally rely on the public to bring us injured, sick or orphaned wildlife but in some situations we are able to send trained volunteers or staff out on rescues. In this instance, Rick, a dedicated volunteer was able to help. After a long drive winding through the aftermath of the storms and avoiding all of the turtles that had found their way onto the road, Rick finally arrived at the start of his journey.

When Rick arrived at the home of the caller she showed him there they eagle was; perched in a very large tree over a ravine filled with other trees and vines covering the ground. Things were about to get difficult. The branch that the eagle was on was at the same level as the top of the ravine but too far away to simply reach out to. Rick attempted to use a net that was attached to a pole. It was just long enough to reach the bird but it kept getting tangled in the tree. At this point Rick had assessed the bird from a distance and realized that it was a younger bird and that it was pretty emaciated and most likely dehydrated. Because the bird was young, it's likely it was still unskilled in hunting and may have become too weak to fly well. This can be dangerous even though there weren't any substantial injuries because being too weak to fly means that he wouldn't be able to hunt which is how he became weaker to begin with. Rick succeeded in nudging the bird out of the tree and it glided to the ravine floor.

Rick followed the bird into the ravine full of tangled vines. He crept closer and closer to the eagle and just when he had it in his sights, the bird hopped away. This struggle continued across the ravine for about an hour, but even while tripping on and getting tangled in the vines with every move, Rick was not about to give up. He asked for help and even though the woman who called was not able to herself, she found other caring neighbors that could. The new recruits formed a human wall behind the bird to keep it from escaping onto the clearing and Rick moved in again. This time he successfully captured the eagle in a large blanket.

The bald eagle was, as Rick predicted, emaciated, dehydrated and very underweight. After spending just a night at WINC it was transferred to a rehabber at Pineview for expert care in a facility with more resources for the size and care required for this type of bird. After such a difficult rescue Rick wanted to make sure the eagle did well and asked to be kept informed on its rehabilitation progress. After the eagle had been returned to health Rick received another call, but this time it was to be there for the release back into the wild of the eagle he worked so hard to rescue.

Without teamwork this eagle’s story may not have had such a happy ending. Teamwork between staff, volunteers and the public is key in the success of both rescuing and rehabilitating an animal. If this caring woman had not made the call we would have never known there was an eagle in need of our help. Without dedicated volunteers or the other caring individuals who offered assistance, the eagle may not have been able to get the help it needed and this hard to top rescue may not have been such a success.

Rehabbers from the Center the Eagle was transferred to and cared for at release it back to its home territory while Rick photographed the moment he had been hoping to see since he first rescued the bird.

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