Local eagle rescue turns out less than perfect
Early last month, a group of Star Prairie Fish & Game members were busy doing some spring clean-up on the McMurtrie Preserve, an environmental and education property managed by the Star Prairie Land Preservation Trust.
The 63-acre tract of land, generously donated by Phyllis and Bob Menke in early 2005, provides 1,400 feet of Cedar Lake shoreline with an interior diversity of wildlife habitat including wetlands, hardwoods, oak savannah and pine plantations. A trail system meanders through the property providing access to each of its natural areas.
One of the highlights of the preserve is an eagle's nest that has withstood the forces of nature for decades. Each year the nest provided a pair of eagle a prime location to raise a family.
This year was no exception as the adult eagles had again hatched a pair which, at this time, were almost the size of the adults and would soon fledge.
As the spring maintenance activities on the land were winding down, one of the workers noticed that a young eaglet had fallen from the large stick nest and had become entangled in a tree branch. In its attempt to stretch its wings to strengthen them for future flight, a gust of wind had perhaps caught the youngster and forced it out of the nest causing it to become trapped, hanging upside down.
Following discussion on what to do and how to rescue the young bird from its predicament, Erv Erickson, one of the workers, made the decision to drive to his home to retrieve a long extension ladder to try to reach the dangling eaglet.
Extending the ladder to its full length and stretching as far as possible, Erv was able to use an extended tree limb saw to hack through the branch allowing the bird its freedom. Dave McConnell, a USF&WS staff member, was then called to retrieve the young bird and transport it to the Minnesota Raptor Center for medical treatment.
After receiving treatment at the center, the medical staff later determined that the young eagle had sustained internal injuries and had suffered broken wing and leg bones that would prevent it from fully recovering. A decision was made to euthanize it.
The second, uninjured eaglet is doing fine, however, with both parents seen caring for it soon after the rescue of its fallen nest mate. Soon that young bird will be joining its parents to soar over Cedar Lake, doing what eagles have done for untold generations.
Barb and Jeff Frinack, along their two sons, Zack and Alex, are very active outdoor enthusiasts.
Besides managing the Star Prairie Trout Farm, the family enjoys hunting, fishing, hiking and anything nature related.
Recently, they discovered an active red fox den located north of New Richmond and have spent many hours observing the fox family and their five kits. I'd like to thank the Frinacks for supplying a number of very interesting photos of this parenting activity.
Foxes mate in the spring and after a two-month gestation period, four to six kits are born. The mother, or vixen, remains in the den with the kits the first couple of weeks to help thermal regulate them while the male supplies the mom food during that period.
Two weeks after birth, the kit's eyes open and after three to four weeks they begin to make short sorties out of the den. Red foxes in the wild live less than two years on average, but individuals in captivity have been known to survive up to 14 years.
Red foxes (Vulpus vulpus) spend much of their time in the fields and open spaces hunting and relaxing while their cousin, the gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), prefer woody cover and can even climb trees because of a unique claw adaptation.
Coyotes will compete with the red fox for territory leaving the gray fox an opportunity to fill in that niche. Gray fox have become much more prevalent in this area because of a marked increase in the coyote numbers.
By Tom Kerr USF&WS
Recently, I have seen blue winged teal pairs or single drakes on local Waterfowl Production Area wetlands. These WPAs are purchased with the money generated from the sale of federal duck stamps.
Many people think of ducks and then automatically think of wetlands. In our area, wetlands play a very important role for breeding waterfowl, providing food and pair habitat. But equally important is the grassland surrounding these wetlands.
Waterfowl rely on large blocks of grassland for nesting habitat. Large areas of undisturbed grassland help the hen hide her nest from predators such as raccoons, skunks, fox, crows and a myriad of other animals that like to eat duck eggs.
Blue winged teal nest relatively close to wetlands, often within a quarter mile of water. Teal will typically lay from seven to nine eggs in a small bowl shaped nest on the ground, relying on dead grass and new spring growth to provide cover.
While the hen is on the nest, the drake will rest and feed in a local wetland, awaiting the hens return so she can quickly feed and get back to her nest. The eggs will hatch in about 24 days, although many nests are destroyed by predators.
In a good year, only 20 percent of the nests will hatch, the rest destroyed by predators, haying, mowing and even flooding.
Blue winged teal nest relatively late in the year, usually initiating their nests in mid-May and hatching sometime in late June. During the summer, the young will stay on area wetlands feeding on plants, seeds and aquatic insects.
Next time you pass a wetland basin, take a few minutes to look for the drake blue winged teal, a small duck with a dark head and a white half moon in front of its eye. Although you may not see the drab colored hen, hopefully somewhere nearby, the she has found some good grassland cover and is sitting on her nest.
For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District, check out our website at www.fws.gov/midwest/stcroix/ or check us out on Facebook by searching for "St. Croix Wetland Management District."