A sad ending, but a true group effort to save an injured eagle

A whole host of people came together to do what they could for the injured bald eagle.

Eagle Rescue on US 10

Last Friday, Sept. 30, a State Patrol trooper and a deputy from the Pepin County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene of an injured eagle on US 10. The deputy and trooper made sure the eagle remained off of the road until a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist could respond to the scene. The eagle was captured and delivered to the Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minn.

Posted by Wisconsin Department of Transportation on Monday, October 3, 2016

Credit: Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Facebook

This is one of those stories that reminds you, sometimes no matter how hard people try, or how kind and helpful humans try to be, things don't always work out the way we might want.

Several agencies worked together recently to make sure the injured bald eagle found on a Wisconsin highway got all the help it could be given.

A Wisconsin State Trooper and a deputy from the Pepin County Sheriff's Office responded to the injured eagle on U.S. 10 in Wisconsin on Friday. They kept an eye on the bird to make sure it didn't go into the road before a wildlife official could rescue it, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said on Facebook Monday.

A Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist captured the eagle and brought it to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota. From there, the center arranged transportation to bring the eagle to the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center to be treated for its injuries, Eileen Hanson, associate director at the National Eagle Center, told GoMN.

Unfortunately, things didn't go as hoped.

The eagle had a "severe wing fracture" that involved the elbow, and because of that, had to be euthanized, Raptor Center Executive Director Julia Ponder told GoMN Tuesday.

"Because of the extensive joint involvement, the bird was not a candidate for surgical repair and release back to the wild," Ponder wrote. "The joint would have become a source of chronic pain and dysfunction for the bird."

Birds can end up at educational facilities

Hanson said it's "fairly common" for the National Eagle Center to be involved in rescues, noting there's usually "a chain of agencies and organizations that work together to rescue injured birds and get them to the veterinary care they need."

If the bird's injuries are too severe, sometimes they must be euthanized, Hanson explained. If the bird can be treated, but won't fully recover to survive in the wild, it can be brought to educational facilities such as the National Eagle Center. The center is currently home to five eagles that couldn't be released back into the wild for various reasons. They serve as educational ambassadors to teach people about the majestic animals.

The Raptor Center has treated 846 raptors so far this year, according to the center's website. As of Sept. 28, the center was working to rehabilitate 80 birds, including 20 bald eagles, 13 red-tailed hawks, and 11 great-horned owls. Here's video of "Freedom," a bird the Raptor Center has been working with – it was rescued in July after getting tangled in twine and was stuck upside down in a tree for at least two days.

Dangers to wild eagles

According to the National Eagle Center, the greatest threat to wild eagles are human-made, including collisions with cars or electrical lines. But what's more dangerous for the birds is if they ingest any lead (from fishing tackle or hunting ammunition) – their powerful digestive systems can break down lead quickly, and then it goes into their bloodstream. Even a tiny bit of lead can be fatal to an eagle within days.

In the past 24 years, more than 500 eagles that have been admitted to the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center have either died or had to be euthanized because of lead poisoning, the organization says. The Raptor Center also says that 90 percent of bald eagles it receives each year for any issue (that's about 120-130 birds) has elevated lead residues in their blood.

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