Recovered eagle soars
With the power of its 7-foot wingspan, a bald eagle took to the Nevada County sky Saturday about a month after it was found with a broken wing and dangerously underweight.
The injured female bald eagle was discovered Feb. 4 by a fisherman on the South Yuba River, about two miles from Englebright Reservoir, said Mike Furtado, a raptor expert with the volunteer Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release Association. The injured bird likely had been on the gravel island in the middle of the river for several weeks before volunteers located it in such a weakened state that Furtado was able to catch it with a net. Unable to fly, the eagle had been eating fish heads and skeletons, Furtado said.
The bird was taken to the For the Love of Pets Veterinary Clinic in Grass Valley and was X-rayed and examined by Dr. Michael Trapani. Furtado said the eagle weighed a light seven pounds – female bald eagles typically weigh in between eight and 12 pounds – and had an impacted crop. The crop is a pouch near an eagle’s neck where food begins to be digested.
“The X-ray showed a broken bone in the left wing that had already healed,” Furtado said. “It takes up to several weeks for a bone to heal in a bird, so she had likely been on the ground that long.”
While the eagle was under anesthetic, Trapani cleaned the rotting fish parts from her crop and found where the ulna bone in the bird’s wing had broken in two places.
On Saturday, Furtado and other expert volunteers released the big bird.
“She was definitely ready to go,” he said.
But the release took time and patience as the eagle was underweight and too weakened to fly. After a round of medications and fresh fish, the seven-pound eagle gained four pounds and then was ready for her physical rehab.
On Feb. 27, Furtado and a group of volunteers began the bird on two-a-day flights on a 500-foot tether.
“After each flight, one of the volunteers would carry her back to the starting point and let go again,” Furtado said. “By the end of the week of training, she was making up to 25 flights per session.”
On the brink of extinction a few decades ago, bald eagles have made a dramatic recovery.
“They’ve made a comeback in the last 15 years,” Furtado said. “Pretty much every lake around here has a pair.”
The eagle released Saturday may have broken its wing in a scrap with an osprey over a fish, Furtado said. She was “a big bird for a bald eagle” and about 6 or 7 years old, he said.
The Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release Association is an all-volunteer nonprofit that is permitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game to handle and rehabilitate injured wildlife. The association relies on membership dues and donations to carry out its work.
“We are always looking for volunteers,” Furtado said. “There is a need, not only for rehabbers, but for people with the ability to do fund-raising, publicity, transport, membership and data input.”
Those who discover injured animals should call the association’s hotline at 273-8499. To volunteer or donate, call 432-3274 or 265-6321.
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