Dazed eagles returned to wild

Posted: Tuesday, May 30, 2000

HAINES (AP) -- Three bald eagles found dazed along a rocky beach have been released after recovering from a barbiturate overdose.

Wildlife officials told the Chilkat Valley News the birds may have been drugged after feeding on the carcass of a euthanized pet.

Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve ranger Bill Zack, who oversees eagle rescues in Haines, said he believes all three fed on the carcass of what appeared to be a black dog found wrapped in a down garment on the beach.

''Two of them were real easy to capture,'' Zack said. ''They were just standing there with a dazed look.''

The third bird, captured less than a mile away, initially flew away from Zack, but not before falling on its face.

The behavior suggested poisoning and searchers found the dog's remains about 50 feet away.

The birds were sent to the Juneau Raptor Center and appeared unnaturally docile.

''They were kind of balancing on their tails, staring straight ahead,'' said bird trainer Jamie Sorg. ''It was like they were in a zombie trance.''

Sorg sent the eagles on to the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka, where an unidentified barbiturate was found in blood tests of the birds.

Water was injected into the captured birds to flush their systems. They also were given mineral oil to minimize absorption of the toxin.

Sorg said barbiturates used to euthanize animals may remain in carcasses. But poisoning is a relatively rare problem for eagles brought in to the bird recovery centers, Sorg said.

''We have a lot more problems with fishhooks, power lines and cars,'' he said.

The birds were released last week from the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka after sleeping off the effect of the drug and getting a full meal, said executive director Elizabeth Whealy.

''They did great,'' Whealy said. ''They flew off over the muskeg, never looking back.''

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