A Rescue of Man and a Majestic Bird of Prey
A mature male Bald Eagle was brought into Frisky’s on February 5th by the Reich family. Kevin Reich was taking a Christian nature walk earlier that evening when he heard wild splashing and saw a Bald Eagle struggling in the water about ten feet away from where he was standing. The Eagle tried to swim away from Kevin, but Kevin continued to observe it. The Eagle obviously had an injured wing, but when he opened his wings they spread to seven feet wide. Kevin realized that the Eagle would need assistance if it were to escape the icy cold Patapsco River.. He tried to help the Eagle for over an hour with his walking stick. When he was only two feet away he was able to help the Eagle over to a fallen tree in the center of the river, but it was not enough. The Eagle’s wings were just strong enough to pull it up on the tree. Soaking wet by then, Kevin called home to ask for help. His Mom, Kendie called Frisky’s and Colleen began to warn her that physical contact with the bird must be done carefully, for the sake of all involved. At Colleen’s advice, the Dad, Kevin, made a call to Prince George’s County Animal Control.
The Reich Family and Animal Control Officers had a treacherous, ½ mile hike downhill to the river. It was only 30° by then and the pathway was very dark. The Eagle was still resting on the fallen tree in the middle of the river and Kevin was on the other side trying to find the best way to retrieve the bird safely. The Officers were going to call for additional help, but the father went into the river, which was not only cold, but at least 4 feet deep and the current was very swift. Through the cold icy water, he made his way to the Eagle. With large heavy gloved hands, he grabbed the Eagle by its talons and the Eagle grabbed on to him. They became one for the next 2 ½ hours. He had to cross the swift current in the 4 feet of icy cold water once more to bring the Eagle back to safety. Once they were back on dry land, the Reich family and Animal Control officers began the uphill climb to make their way out of the wooded area with the Eagle, but the excitement was not over yet. Officer Washington became physically distressed and passed out. Kendie Reich is an RN and she performed triage and gave him the necessary care until 911 was called. It took 6 firemen to carry him up the steep and dangerous embankment where he was taken by ambulance to Laurel Regional Hospital ER. Knowing the officer was being well taken care of, the Reich family delivered the Eagle to Frisky’s at 9:45 that evening.
While the Reich family had been involved in the rescuing of the Eagle and Officer Washington, Colleen, Frisky’s Master Rehabilitator, was preparing for their arrival. She started preparing the examining space and setting up a holding area for the Eagle to be placed in immediately. She put in a call to Frisky’s on-call vet, Dr. Keith Gold of Chadwell Animal Hospital. As Dr. Gold answered, Colleen could hear him say to his wife in the background, “its ok, Colleen would only be calling me at this hour if it was an emergency.” Dr. Gold spoke with Colleen about the specifics for the treatment of this magnificent bird. She was well informed and very concerned about what was about to happen.
When the Reich family arrived, the Eagle was still being held in the arms of Kevin’s father and the Eagle had its talons wrapped tightly around his gloved fingers as though it was the only security to be found at that time. The Eagle was drenched and looked as though it had been struggling to stay alive for some time. It was emaciated and weak and could hardly raise its head. Upon examination by Colleen, it was discovered to have a wound on its left shoulder, leaving the wing limp and hanging. It was obvious that it may not have survived much longer if Kevin’s path had not led him to that very spot.
One of our volunteers, Ashley Vanderloop, was available to help Colleen. Ashley had worked at Raptor Rescue in Colorado during her college years and now she had the experiences and her education from there to share with Colleen as they worked together side by side throughout the entire night.
First thing Sunday morning, Colleen, with two apprentices, Joyce and Matt Dietsch, drove over to Dr. Gold’s office with the Eagle. Dr. Gold performed a complete examination, checked its weight, and then took x-rays. Dr. Gold prescribed medications, diet and vitamins with plenty of quiet rest for the next two weeks. Then he shared some sad news, the Eagle’s injury was not a circumstance of nature.
It made everyone so angry to realize that the wound on the Eagle’s shoulder was caused from a gun shot. They still hear gunshots daily in the area where Kevin found the Eagle and we are unsure of their nature. We would like to see the Eagle be returned home after its rehabilitation because Eagles mate for life, but the decision for where he is released will be made by the USFW when the time comes.
While the Eagle is still in a smaller protective enclosure, we are making improvements to our largest flight enclosure, which has been empty since we released our Barred Owl. We are taking this opportunity to do a heavy cleaning; we are refurbishing some of the perches and replacing the stone floor. All these things need to be done ever so often, but the enclosure is not often empty, so we are doing all that we can do before the Eagle is introduced to this larger space. It will need adequate room to fly when as it is recuperating and a place to bathe regularly.
David Buhlman donated a truckload of stone for the floor of the enclosure. Now, please understand, we love our volunteers, but there are times when things just don’t go as planned. The day that the stone needed to be wheelbarrowed and raked smooth in the enclosure, we had many volunteers lined up to help. However, when the day rolled around, we had illnesses, work and other last minute reasons that kept them all from coming in. But we knew it would all get done. Amy Brousseau unexpectedly came in that day and took care of all the rabbits, chinchilla, minks, coatimundi, and squirrels and did lots of extra things to help out. That meant that Colleen and Scott were outside doing all the shoveling, wheelbarrowing and raking the stone throughout the
day. But then, neither of them have ever been afraid of hard work and it had to be done. The Eagle was to have the best care we could offer.
Bald Eagle rehabilitation is governed under Federal Fish and Wildlife Service and very precise records need to be kept. Colleen must keep records of the Eagle’s health, medications and all procedures done. She photographs the Eagle daily as well as examines it for the brightness of its eyes, the condition of its feathers and pellets, the way it holds itself erect, its perching and its fisting.
Colleen records how much the Eagle eats at each feeding and whether it is passive or excited about the fresh fish she has just offered it. The Eagle appears to be making a fist as it holds half of the fish out in a territorial display, as though nothing ever happened, but we know better. We also know that everyday it grows stronger and very soon now it will be moved to the large flight enclosure where hopefully its wings will lift it into the air again.
To Be Continued……..
Officer Washington was recovering well at the ER when the Reich family visited him later that night.
All of us that are involved in this Eagle’s life now, know that there was Purpose in Kevin finding the Eagle and being led to Frisky’s. When there is a storm that seems impenetrable, the Eagle can soar upward on the winds and use the very storm that seems threatening to rise above it all. Let’s hope we all learn something from this. For many years now, Frisky’s has been caught up in a storm and the Eagle reminds us that we too can rise above it.