Binge eating grounds Kodiak eagles

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2003

KODIAK (AP) -- At least eight eagles had to walk awhile Tuesday after bingeing on fish guts in the back of a seafood processor truck.

Burdened down by an estimated 4 pounds of dinner, their wings wet and oily from fish waste, the eagles could not fly out of the back of a Trident Seafoods Biodry truck. The truck contained seafood waste that will be reduced to fertilizer.

Kodiak Wildlife Refuge Biologist Denny Zwiefelhofer said the eagles would not be able to fly until they dried off. He estimated that by sunset they would be ready to take off.

''Its fairly windy and the sun is out. They're drip-drying and preening their feathers,'' he said.

Given Tuesday's fine weather, he said, it was not a serious situation, but it could have been if temperatures had turned cold and the eagles became cold as they lost the insulation of their feathers.

''If it is cold enough, they become like an eagle-sickle until we get them dried out,'' he said. ''This is not a common occurrence as long as the trucks are kept under cover. It can be a violation, but we try to give them a little leeway when they start processing again around the first of the year.''

Kodiak processors are starting to process pollock and cod. They generally park the trucks under cover so eagles will not scavenge in them.

A Trident spokesman said the truck was left uncovered but would be placed inside in the future.

Zwiefelhofer said eagles use their sight to find food.

''If they see something to eat, they are going to land in there and eat it,'' Zwiefelhofer said. ''If they can't see it, they won't do it.''

Zwiefelhofer said there was probably 18 inches of wet, gooey fish guts in the back of the truck. He used a net to remove eight grounded eagles and place them into sunshine.

It could have been worse. Another 50 to 60 eagles were perched around the truck, Zwiefelhofer said, looking for something to eat.

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