Eagle recovering after tumbling from skies

Posted: Monday, July 15, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- An American Bald Eagle has been recuperating in Anchorage after it and another eagle apparently tumbled from the skies high over Valdez.

Eagle No. 0216 looked healthy recently at the Anchorage Bird Treatment and Learning Center, recovering from an ingested hook and lead pellet. The other eagle didn't fare well at all. It was found dead from the fall last May.

How the raptors came to their fates isn't certain. One theory is that the two eagles could have been tumbling, mating in mid-air, when they fell to the ground, said Valdez veterinarian Kathryn Hawkins. But the dead eagle's sex was not determined, so there is no way of knowing whether the eagles were late-season mating or not, Hawkins said.

It is also possible the Valdez eagles were fighting and their talons locked, making the birds plummet to the ground.

''They are bullheaded and moody and they don't let go,'' said Ferg Ferguson, assistant director of the bird treatment center.

In Valdez, the eagle was treated for shock and a wounded leg from the accident, but later X-rays found a hook in the bird's gizzard and a pellet in its stomach. The eagle had absorbed some of the lead. ''(Lead) is like internal poisoning,'' Ferguson said.

The eagle was brought to the Anchorage facility after it failed to fly when it was released in Valdez, Hawkins said. The bird was then brought to the flight center on Camp Carroll on Fort Richardson for recovery.

The main problem with the eagle was its ingestion of lead from the pellet, said Dr. James Scott, with the bird treatment center.

''It wasn't in too bad a shape for having a piece of metal in its stomach,'' Scott said.

At the treatment center, the eagle passed the hook and the pellet on its own and recently began flying again, Ferguson said.

When the eagle is released is now a question of how and when the bird recovers.

If the eagle is not released this summer, the center will keep it until next spring when the bird's condition will be re-evaluated.

''Chances of the bird's surviving are good,'' Scott said.

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