Bald Eagle Soars Home at Buford Park
On a sunny afternoon in early August, at the southern end of the North Bottomlands in Buford Park visitors got to see something spectacular: the release of a newly rehabilitated male bald eagle.
This eagle, simply referred to as “Eagle 130”, got tangled in a sheep fence nearby on Seavey Loop in mid-May. This was surprising, given the proximity to a pair of nesting bald eagles known to inhabit the Willamette Confluence Preserve, north of Buford Park. The section of fence was located in a drainage ditch, so neither the farmer who reported him to the Cascades Raptor Center or long-time volunteer and rescuer Clay Krantz, who arrived on scene shortly thereafter, knew how long he had been there. According to Dr. Ulrike Streicher, Rehabilitation Director for the Center, he must have been there for a considerable amount of time. “He could have done himself so much more damage in that fence.” she added. Both of the eagle’s wings and his head were tangled in the wire, leaving the bird completely immobilized.
Once safely extracted from the fencing, the eagle was weak and had a clear injury to its left patagial tendon, which is crucial for flight. Because of this, caretakers kept him in confined enclosures that would prevent further injury. Over time, as he healed, his enclosure space was increased until finally, 70 days into his recovery, he was allowed to fly again for the first time. Staff and volunteers at the Raptor Center were still concerned that he might reinjure his wing, but the tendon held and he was able to spend another 10 days being cared for in the Center’s flight cage.
The center has been receiving a lot of rescued eagles this year, 15 to date. According to Dr. Streicher, “When eagles have an accident, it’s always bad.” Eagles are territorial birds and are known to fight amongst themselves for the best spot for nesting and hunting. Baby eagles are not the most clever of creatures and will escape the nest, only to find themselves flightless and earthbound, without the protection of their parents. Once in the rescue, each adult eagle must have 300g (2/3 lb) of fresh fish or rabbit per day. This may not sound like a lot, but sourcing this fresh food is both challenging and costly. This caused the center to put out a call to local anglers to donate their catch to help recovering raptors. The request was met with tremendous support and the center could easily continue to feed birds their natural diet while being rehabilitated.
This kind of care couldn’t happen without the dedicated staff of the Cascades Raptor Center, volunteers or interns like Ellie Hayduk, who got to open the sliding door on Eagle 130’s transport cage, finally releasing him into Buford Park. The Center provides hands-on opportunities for students like Ellie and others to get experience in veterinary care for wild birds, rehabilitation and raptor conservation. Depending on their experience, volunteers help with everything from cleaning out cages, to assisting with releases of birds like Eagle 130.
The Cascades Raptor Center did everything possible to ensure that he was in prime condition to re-establish himself in the wild and after gaining a lot of weight, being treated for parasites and with a fully healed wing, Eagle 130 was able to take off and soar into the boughs of a nearby maple tree upon release. With some luck, you too might get to see him flying over Buford Park with a new lease on life.