Eric Lovestrand and Ronnie Carter rescued a disabled eagle earlier this month.
On Jan. 3, a visitor to Seafood Workers Park on US 98 west of Apalachicola called the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR) to report a big bird down. Lovestrand and Carter, both ANERR employees, arrived to find the caller waiting. She pointed out a group of vultures feeding. When the two men approached the birds, the vultures flew away, revealing an adult male bald eagle.
The eagle was unable to fly but retreated on foot across the mud flat to an area of marsh grass adjacent to the park.
Lovestrand and Carter crossed a bridge on US 98 on foot and pushed through the thick undergrowth until they reached a five-foot pile of concrete chunks beyond which lay the grassy area.
Lovestrand said that once they climbed the concrete, they could see the eagle. Carter donned protective gloves and made his way to the distressed bird.
“Ronnie was not hesitant. He was ready to jump in and do whatever needed to be done,” said Lovestrand. “I was happy to have him there.”
Carter netted the eagle and “as soon as it was in the net, it rolled over on its back and extended its talons,” Lovestrand said.
Lovestrand said Carter carefully controlled the bird’s wings and calmed it. The bird was captured without injury to it or the two rescuers.
Transported to the Florida Wild Mammal Association (FWMA) wildlife rescue facility in Wakulla County for assessment and treatment, the eagle did not appear to be injured and there was no visible blood, Lovestrand said.
He said FWMA Manager Chris Beatty took blood samples and sent them off to be tested. “We first thought it might be suffering from lead poisoning,” Lovestrand said. “But it didn’t show any symptoms after the first day.”
He said he initially thought it possible the bird was feeding with the vultures and had gorged itself until it was too heavy to fly but Beatty said the bird’s crop was empty when it arrived at the rescue center.
The eagle is now feeding itself and perching. When stabilized, depending on the result of blood work, the eagle may be sent to a facility in Pensacola that specializes in eagle rehabilitation.
The American Eagle Foundation advises if people see an injured bald eagle is injured, to quickly notify wildlife officials or the police and then return to the site to watch the eagle and wait for the officials. Since birds of prey require special diets and care, it's important they be cared for by trained personnel.
In those unusual situations where an individual believes they must take action, the foundation advises to move the bird with extreme care. Wear heavy, long gloves if possible, and place a blanket or large towel completely over its head to calm the bird and so that it can’t see to bite or strike with its talons.
“Approach the bird from the rear,” advises the foundation. “Gently push down on its back so that both its feet are against the ground, preventing it from striking with either talon. While keeping the bird’s head completely covered, slide your hands down and over each wing, holding the wings against the body of the eagle. While still gently forcing both its feet to the ground, slide your hands down each side of the eagle to simultaneously grasp each leg just above the talons.
“Pick up the eagle, while holding one wing against your body and the other under your opposite arm. Place the eagle in a large cardboard box or large pet carrier with ventilation holes.” The less room the bird has to move around, the better. Place the bird in a warm, dark, quiet place and call for help immediately. Do not feed the eagle and do not place it near people (especially children) or pets.”