A juvenile eagle rescued by an employee at the Puntzi air tanker base in the Chilcotin is recuperating at the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation (OWL) Society facility in Delta, B.C.
Geordie Ferguson, who lives on Puntzi Lake, works at the air tanker base mixing up fire retardant for air craft.
He discovered the eagle on the side of the road.
“I took it out some water and talked to it a little bit and an hour or two later our camp cook Denise came in and we talked about the eagle,” he said.
They decided to contact Sue Burton in Williams Lake who volunteers for Second Chance Wildlife Rescue and arranged for her to come and pick up the eagle.
“I gave it some chicken and some scrap meat for the next few days and made sure it had water,” Ferguson said. “I tried not to overfeed it because I didn’t know what was wrong with it.”
As the eagle started feeling a little better, it started moving closer to the base and Ferguson said he could almost pet it.
“It wasn’t being shy of me or any other people around.”
When Burton arrived, Ferguson helped her capture the eagle using a small fish net.
They easily put it into a dog crate, he said.
“It didn’t overly resist or anything like that and I think it just realized it was in distress and we were being nice.”
Burton transported it to the Williams Lake airport to fly out with Pacific Coastal.
“Geordie even gave me $100 for gas,” Burton said. “He wanted to give me more than that, but I said $100 would cover my gas costs.”
Reciprocating the praise, Ferguson credited Burton for guiding him through the rescue process.
“She did a terrific job, getting the eagle to the vet and then down to OWL, really quickly.”
Rob Hope, raptor care manager at OWL, said the male eagle weighed about 2.8 kilograms when he arrived and is now weighing almost 3.5 kilograms.
“He was way underweight so basically we’ve slowly built up his weight,” Hope told the Tribune. “He’s more around where he should be.”
Hope said the eagle looks like he’s a first-year bird.
“Usually it’s sink or swim, they make it or they don’t, and this guy wasn’t going to make it. He’s got a good chance now.”
Once the staff is comfortable that his weight is stable, it will be a matter of building up his muscles again.
“We have a 300-foot flight cage here for eagles and if he does all that without stopping we know he’ll be strong enough to be released back into the wild.”
The eagle will be released at Puntzi, unless there’s a big snow storm, or something else where he wouldn’t have a chance.
“In that case we would try to release him near a salmon run locally, just because he’s a first-year bird, and will need a steady food supply to get him going and then he’ll probably end up going back up there anyways.”
It will take at least a month if not more for the eagle to full recuperate, Hope said.
As for naming it, Hope said they take in about 150 eagles a year so they don’t name them.
Ferguson, however, was originally thinking about naming him Paul, which could be switched over to Pauline if necessary, because he didn’t know if it was a male or female at first.
“If it was up to me it would either be Puntzi or CIFAC for the initial attack crew, because those guys are my heroes.”
Ferguson has lived at Puntzi Lake for 12 years and lost his home during the wildfires of 2015.
“While I was loading aircraft the fire came to my property. My neighbour got my dog out and I just continued loading aircraft.”
He eventually purchased a mobile home from the Bob Paterson Homes in Williams Lake and in 2016 some friends helped him put an addition on it.
“With this firefighting it takes up a lot of my time in the summer so I haven’t had much time to do any more on it.”
The summer of 2018 has been an average summer with work, he added.
“What really slowed things down, was a lot of smoke. It was hard for the aircraft to get in and see where to target the fires.”
Incidentally, Ferguson owns a dog he also rescued from a shelter.