Two adult bald eagles in two days were sent from Ketchikan to Sitka, and both birds had similar symptoms. The first was found near a creek on Gravina Island by a young woman.
Jennifer Cedarleaf, avian rehabilitation coordinator with the Alaska Raptor Center, said the woman carried the bird to the airport.
“I think she had a coat with her, and put her coat on it, which is actually pretty brave considering I don’t think she ever picked up an eagle before,” she said. “And then she ended up holding the bird for like, two hours or something.”
The second eagle was found by a couple of hikers in the Carlanna Lake area. They contacted Island to Island Veterinary Clinic, and one of the veterinarians collected the bird late in the evening with the help of some volunteers, held it overnight and treated it before putting it on a plane to Sitka.
Cedarleaf said both birds had higher than normal temperatures, and were weak and dehydrated. Other than that, though,
“We don’t have any clue, really, what was wrong with them,” she said.
They gave the birds fluids, cleaned them up and made sure they were eating properly before moving them into the main flight area. The center’s veterinarian researched possible poisons the birds could have ingested, but Cedarleaf said nothing fit the symptoms. The birds didn’t appear to have any injuries that would indicate they had hit a power line, either.
“They’re going to be two mysteries that we never know what happened to them, but they’re both doing well right now, and hopefully they’ll be released before the end of the salmon run,” she said.
Both have taken short flights since they were placed in the flight area, but remain somewhat weak and need more time to gain strength before they can be released.
Cedarleaf said if they are not well enough by the end of the salmon run, the center will hold both birds until the herring run next spring.
“We don’t like to release birds that have been compromised when there’s not a lot of food around and it’s hard to find,” she said.
The center releases its birds in Sitka, no matter where they came from in Southeast Alaska. Cedarleaf said eagles move around the region, following food, and the birds most likely would find their way back to Ketchikan for mating season next year.