Workers uncover eagle buried by avalanche

Posted: Wednesday, February 21, 2001

UNALASKA (AP) -- An Unalaska city worker clearing an avalanche from a road Friday uncovered a bald eagle buried by snow but still alive.

''I had no idea he was there at all until I moved that bucket of snow out of there,'' said Bud Reas, who works at the city trash baler in the Aleutian Island community. ''I exposed all of him except his right wing, which was buried all the way up to his body, practically.''

The trash bailer and landfill are a few hundred yards from the avalanche that covered the road.

Reas said the bird was lucky it wasn't crushed by the bucket of the 950F Caterpillar loader.

''When I picked up that bucket, I removed all the snow that was in front of him and maybe a little bit that was laying on him,'' he said.

Three baler workers freed the eagle's wing with hand shovels.

''They laid a rain jacket over him to keep him calm while they were digging around on his wing, to keep from getting bit,'' Reas said.

Eagles routinely perch on the cliffs above the road and feed on garbage stored outside the baler building waiting to be hauled across the street to the landfill.

''You see them perched up there quite often. I assume he was just perching up there for the night and when the slide came down, it took him right along with everything else,'' Reas said.

After workers freed the eagle, it stayed for a few hours before it made its way up the slope on foot ''with his wings flapping a little bit, and walking.'' The eagle was last seen perched above the road. Reas said he expects the bird made a full recovery.

''When he got free, he stretched (the trapped wing) out all the way, like he was going to fly away, and then he tucked it in like they do when they're sitting. It looked like he was functioning fine,'' Reas said.

Eagles are a common sight in Unalaska, digging into trash bins, flying in front of cars and trucks and perching on street lights. During the National Audubon Society's Christmas bird count on Dec. 30, participants counted 622 eagles around Unalaska.

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