WILDLIFE — Much like some people you might have seen on New Year's Eve, the immature bald eagle was grounded, wings spread with its head face-down in the snow along the Little Spokane River.
It was rescued after an ordeal and it's still alive Monday evening in the hands of veterinarians.
The Michaelis family spotted it on their land on Dec. 31 just before sunset. They called local birding enthusiast Tina Wynecoop and said they could tell the large bird — they weren't' sure of its identity at the time — was still breathing.
Wynecoop and her husband, Judge, grabbed bath towels, a quilt and leather gloves and responded in their car.
“On our way we called all the numbers of all the wildlife rescue people we could - what an evening to try to find someone home and available to handle the situation!” Tina said.
Read on for the story and the latest report on the eagle's status.
Marilyn Omler of Ponti's Veterinary, and Lenny Hahn of WDFW (who was in Montana at the time) both advised the Wynecoops by phone.
“During the rescue attempt the eagle got out of our grasp and flopped into the river and floated downstream, seemingly unable to gain a foothold on the icy edges. Judge followed along on the bank as it floated downstream and saw that it was finally able to get a foothold, after being completely submerged at times. It was very cold outside, near zero.
By the time they drove to the other side of the river — a couple of miles by car, it was dark. They asked permission to cross a property owner's land to get the river's edge. Judge noticed the eagle's wing and foot tracks where the bird had crawled away from the river to some brush.
A quilt draped over the eagle kept it quiet and transferrable.
“It spent the night in a large dog crate with the quilt laid over the crate in an enclosed garage,” Wynecoop said. “Judge and I had a hard time sleeping while we worried about the bird. We were thrilled to see that it looked pretty alive and strong after its ordeal when we saw it this morning.
“The Michaelis' went with us to Otis Orchards where Marilyn Omler met us and the eagle at the Ponti Clinic. She identified it as a 4-5 year old immature bald eagle and let it out of the cage (much to our surprise).
The bird was assessed, x-rayed and held for observation through the weekend. An update should be available today.
While birding guides suggest bald eagles average 10 pounds, this eagle weighed a hefty 15 pounds at the clinic, Wynecoop said. “When we carried it back to our car it felt like 25 pounds!” she added, noting that its feathers were soaked.
Omler noticed burn marks on the pads of the eagle's feet which may have been caused by contact with powerlines, otherwise the legs and wings were intact, Wynecoop said.
“Omler's professionalism and ease of handling the eagle were wonderful to watch,” she said.
Outcome: The eagle seems recovered with four days of warmth and care with no serious injuries detected and was released where it was found along the Little Spokane River.