Bald Eagle Rehabilitation and Release

What a blessing to handle such a magnificent
animal and what a responsibility to get him back out there flying and
living free.
bald eagle, wildlife rehabilitation, raptors, birds of prey
He was found on December 19th by 2 teenage boys, on a rural country road near Bernville, Pennsylvania in Berks County. The boys alerted the police who immediately called Red Creek Wildlife Center. At first glance, it would appear he was hit by a car, but some signs did not make sense and warranted further investigation. The male, 4 year old Bald Eagle was face down on the shoulder of the roadway with its feet tightly balled. His head twitched from Central Nervous System interruption. bald eagle, wildlife rehabilitation, raptors, birds of preyThe most disturbing sign was that the eagle was drooling profusely, which is more indicative of an ingested poison.We searched the area and noticed fecal matter and feathers about 30 feet up the bank above where the bird was located. It was possible that the bird became sick or injured up in the trees and wandered downhill until it reached the flat road. It was possible that the bird had been shot or had ingested lead or a chemical poison. In case a crime had been committed, Chief Kris Kerschner of the Tulpehocken Township Police Department marked the location the bird was found.

Peggy Hentz and Morrie Katz recovered the eagle and alerted Dr. Bridget McMahon, owner of Kutztown Animal Hospital, who opened up the clinic on that Sunday afternoon for this emergency patient. The Eagle was transported immediately to the veterinarian, who concluded that this was indeed a case of organophosphate poisoning. With initial treatment started, the bird was released to the care of Red Creek Wildlife Center.

For the next two days the bird was treated for poisoning with frequent medications and fluids to flush his system. He was quite docile, staring and his head twitched from Central Nervous System Interruption. He did not appear aware of our handling, nor did he fight us.

As you can see in the picture to the left, the feet are balled tight. Prior to this picture he was also drooling with mouth open breathing but that stopped soon after his first medications. As you can see, he is easily handled and not fighting us at all.

bald eagle, wildlife rehabilitation, raptors, birds of preyBy day three the eagle was getting stronger and becoming aware of our handling. He started fighting and flapping his wings during his treatments We now needed to wrap him in a blanket to keep him from struggling and slugging us with that 6 foot wing span.

Hand feeding him was a trip. Morrie held the bird each time as Peggy administered
injections and tube feedings. Beside his strength and the danger of his talons, eagles have extremely sharp beaks. Manipulating the beak while tube feed was difficult while wearing gloves and Peggy often tossed the gloves aside in frustration, handling his head and beak with bare hands. Twice the bird laid her thumb open along with other nicks and small wounds. But the effort and sacrifice was well worth it when by the third day the bird began standing on open feet and became interested in where it was and what bald eagle, wildlife rehabilitation, raptors, birds of preywas happening.

By Christmas Eve the eagle had begun eating on his own and was becoming quite active , but by Christmas dayhe experienced a severe set back. Because of his compromised immune system, he developed both a bacterial and fungal infection and the bird’s life was again threatened.

Doctor Ken Felix, a veterinarian experienced with raptors, from the Pittsburgh area generously donated his time and experience, spending long telephone consultations with Peggy. Dr. Felix outlined a treatment regimen for the bird and gave Peggy the direction she needed. The eagle was once again on its way to recovery.

bald eagle, wildlife rehabilitation, raptors, birds of preyThursday, December 30th, the bald eagle graduated to an outdoor environment. Medications were continued and the bird began once again self feeding. The
following week was spent getting the bird’s weigh back up and readying him for eventual release.

We cannot get a picture of him perching up. As soon as we enter to feed or clean he flies down wanting to “kick butt”. He has developed quite the attitude.

Friday January 7th, the eagle is strong and active and his weight has returned to normal. Most of all, he has made it quite evident that he wants to leave. We were now watching for a window of time when the weather was clear to release this magnificent bird.

Sunday, January 9th, three weeks after being rescued, the Eagle flew back and forth in excitement as an unusual crowd gathered on the grounds. About fifty people in all, Red Creek volunteers, and the people who originally found the bird near their family farm, attended. Even the Police Officer who responded that day was present to see this magnificent creature take to the sky. Two television crews and a newspaper reporter and photographer were available to record the event and an excitement filled the air that even the Eagle seemed to feel.

At 2 o’clock Morrie and I entered the pen and captured the bird. We had talked that morning about how to release such a large bird. “Hold his legs and support his weight with your other hand. Hold him upright in flight position and when he begins to pull away just slowly loosen your grip. Don’t toss or throw him. Let the bird do it.” These were my instructions.

We stepped out of the flight with Morrie holding the bird and me keeping his wings in close to the body. Cameras flashed as the grounds fell silent. As I released his wings, the Eagle began to flap. Then Morrie gently let the 4-year-old male Bald Eagle go. And go he did!

The 9-pound bird took to the air in a snap. Its six-foot wingspan slapped at the wind as it headed east, presumably back to its native Berks County. It crossed the grounds, dipped under the telephone wires and flapped hard and fast until it disappeared from sight. The flight couldn’t have been more perfect had we choreographed it.
Photo by Nick Meyer ;
Pottsville Republican

“Have a good one!” Morrie said as he waved goodbye.

The next day’s newspaper article reported that I shouted, clapped, jumped, and then cried a tear of joy. I can’t believe I cried. I never cry.


Friday, January 7th, WFMZ channel 69 news came by and taped a news item
on the Bald eagle’s story.
To view the clip, Click HereYou must have RealPlayer installed to view the clip.