A juvenile bald eagle was recently released into the wild on Enterprise Road near 150 Mile House after several months of rehabilitation care in Delta.
The bird’s release was attended by Jill and Peter Llewellyn, who rescued him, and by Dr. Doug Magnowski who assessed and treated him at the Animal Care Hospital in Williams Lake.
Peter Llewellyn said that they came upon the injured bird beside the highway near a deer carcass where other birds were feeding.
“We saw one bird standing on the edge of the road very close to traffic, and thought he would fly away when we drove by, but he didn’t and we knew something was wrong,” Peter explained.
“We turned around and came back, and saw that crows were circling him. He tried to fly and couldn’t. We had dog blankets in the back of the car and I thought I could throw one over him, but then what?
“We didn’t have a cage or anything to put him in, and it wasn’t the kind of thing where I could say, ‘Here, Jillian, hold this on your lap.’”
A driver pulled up behind the Llewellyns to try to help, and found the number for O.W.L. (Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society) in the Lower Mainland.
“They said they couldn’t come out and get the bird, but that there was a rescue place called ‘Second Chance’ a lot closer, and gave us that number,” Peter added. “The other driver phoned them, and they asked if we could catch it and take it to the Animal Care Hospital.”
He said that just then they noticed what they thought was a police car coming toward them, but saw that it was an ambulance, driven by a B.C. Ambulance district superintendent Amy Pole.
“She asked if I’d done this before and I said I had; I was in the fire service in Britain for 30 years and had rescued a few big buzzards down from power poles. She said she had lots of blankets and a big plastic tote, and that’s what we decided to put the eagle into.”
He noted that by this time the bird had moved from the edge of the highway down a bank – barely moving and looking done in.
“I said, ‘let’s get one person on either side of him, one in front waving their hands to keep him off the road, and I’ll come from behind and drop the blanket on him.’
“That’s what we did: I rolled him up in the blanket, making sure that his wing didn’t flap around and that his talons and beak were contained, and we put him in the tote.”
Dr. Magnowski said that when he examined the bird he found a broken wing, but not a displaced fracture.
“There was quite a bit of soft tissue damage, but he was young enough that he would heal fairly quickly if he were prevented from flying or flapping around until it did.”
After assessing and stabilizing the bird, Magnowski contacted Pacific Coastal Airlines, who generously provides free transport of injured wildlife to rescue facilities.
He said O.W.L. makes every attempt to return rescued wildlife to their home territory, so when the Enterprise Road eagle was fully healed, Pacific Coastal flew him back home.
He also explained that O.W.L. is very careful to make sure that exposure to humans at their facility is kept to a minimum, to make return to their natural habitat as successful as possible.
“They have special feeding procedures so that they don’t see, hear, or interact with people at all. He’s wild now, compared to how he was when we were treating him,” Magnowski said.
The young eagle wasted no time taking to the sky on Enterprise Road. Magnowski said that the last eagle they released, on New Year’s Day, walked out of the carrier, looked around and then flew to a nearby branch or two before soaring away.
This recent release blasted out flying, banked a sharp right over the railroad tracks and disappeared.
Jillian said that the minute they handed the injured bird over to Magnowski in the tote, they felt immensely relieved that the bird was in good hands.
“When he phoned us several months later to invite us to see the bird released back home, we were so pleased,” Jillian said. “It’s so good to see this today.”
“It’s always a high point for us when we can release a healthy wild bird like this,” Magnowski concluded. “Right now he’s in his glory.”
The video was taken by Madison Magnowski