Eagle on hole five
Jimmy Smith was surprised to see a baby bird collapsed under the brush on the fifth hole of Bristol Ridge Golf Course on July 10. Smith is a ranger for the golf course and said he was not expecting to see a bird under the bushes.
"He was sitting there. The beetles were all around him," Smith said.
The bird was slightly smaller than a football with a downy white head and dark wings and a short, dark tail. Smith said the bird was prone when he found it, but it was able to spread its wings when he got closer to check on it.
Smith didn't get too close to the bird but called Natalie Landgreen, another Bristol Ridge employee who said she had dealt with similar situations before.
Landgreeen called the Arnell Humane Society of Amery. Although Arnell, like most other humane societies, does not handle wild animals, Teresa Stevens, who works at the Arnell Humane Society has been trained in wildlife rescue and volunteered to pick up the bird, which she confirmed was an American Bald Eagle.
The bird was found at around 2:30 p.m. July 10 but Stevens could not pick it up until 5 p.m., so she told Landgreen and Smith how to pick up the bird and place it in a cardboard box. The bird was stored in a dark area with a little water to keep it safe until she could pick it up.
"[It] was panting really bad," Landgreen said. But Landgreen said the eagle perked up after being taken inside and given water.
Stevens said she planned to take the baby eagle to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, but found out that due to a lack of funding, the raptor center wasn't able to help the bird. Stevens said she made 28 phone calls before she was able to find a place that could safely rehabilitate the baby eagle.
"It's a specialized thing that not many people know how to do," Stevens said. If a bird is rehabilitated improperly, Stevens said it can be very bad for the bird. It's especially difficult as eagles imprint on humans very quickly, which would render the eagle unable to be released into the wild. It would become a pet and follow humans around.
"I guess, in my mind, to have a bald eagle on the ground following you, it's going to be cool," said Stevens. "But doing it that way, the bird lives but you kind of break the spirit that way. I think it's just sad to see an eagle on the ground when that's the top dog."
According to Stevens, rehabilitators need to wear camouflage when dealing with eagles, so the eaglets do not imprint on them. Rehabilitation for eaglets also includes a special puppet designed to look like a mother eagle. This can all be costly, and as bald eagles are no longer on the federal endangered species list, they have lost much federal funding to deal with rescued birds.
Stevens took the eaglet to Wildwoods Rehabilitation center in Duluth, where it could be safely rehabilitated. She said the eaglet is in good condition and is likely to make a full recovery.
Stevens said in the case of the golf course, it was necessary to move the eaglet as it was dangerous to keep the bird there because of all the humans going through that area. Stevens said Landgreen and Smith at Bristol Ridge handled everything just right.
"It just amazes me how much people will put themselves out for something like that," Stevens said.
Stevens said anyone who finds an injured eagle, or any injured wild animal, should stay away from it and do nothing for at least eight hours, until it is clear that the creature is injured or its parents are clearly dead. Still, Stevens said the first thing to do if one notices an injured wild animal is to call the authorities such as a humane society, the Department of Natural Resources or the police. If someone finds an injured eagle, Stevens recommends calling Wildwoods Rehabilitation at 218-491-3604. A humane society can also direct a person to the right authority to call.