News

Rescued eagle released in woods

Jayne McKelvy, left, a Whidbey Island veterinarian, releases a male bald eagle Monday night near Saratoga Woods with the help of technician Linda Dier, who<p>removed tape from the birdVeterinary Hospital in Oak Harbor. - Gayle Saran' title='Jayne McKelvy, left, a Whidbey Island veterinarian, releases a male bald eagle Monday night near Saratoga Woods with the help of technician Linda Dier, who

removed tape from the bird's talons. The injured eagle was found on Saratoga Road several days earlier and was rehabilitated at Animal Care and Laser Center

Veterinary Hospital in Oak Harbor. ' border='0' />

Jayne McKelvy, left, a Whidbey Island veterinarian, releases a male bald eagle Monday night near Saratoga Woods with the help of technician Linda Dier, who

removed tape from the bird's talons. The injured eagle was found on Saratoga Road several days earlier and was rehabilitated at Animal Care and Laser Center

Veterinary Hospital in Oak Harbor.

— image credit: Gayle Saran

A group of eight people gathered in the Saratoga Woods parking lot Monday evening to watch a mature bald eagle be released after a five-day visit to a local veterinary clinic.

The eagle was found injured on Nov. 27 on Saratoga Road and was taken to an Oak Harbor veterinary clinic for rehabilitation. After almost a week of dining on chicken and receiving treatment of deep puncture wounds, the eagle was returned to South Whidbey for release.

In a deepening dusk around 5 p.m. Monday, veterinarian Jayne McKelvy and vet technician Linda Dier took great care to get the eagle back to its home with as little trauma as possible. Together, the pair tossed the 8-pound bird in the air.

Clearly restored to health, its wings began a slow, rhythmic motion that carried the white-headed raptor away from a group of not only vets, but other nature lovers. A collective sigh, then a cheer was heard, and few tears were shed as the eagle disappeared into the dark sky over the dense woods.

For Keith Gilfillen and Michael Nutt, both of Langley, the release completed a circle. The two were responsible for the eagle's rescue.

"What a wonderful moment. The reward is the eagle has been saved," Gilfillen said.

"He's back where he belongs; he is home," Michael Nutt said.

The eagle rescue began about 7:30 a.m. last Wednesday when Gilfillen and his fiance, Bonnie Dunlavy, were driving to work. They came upon the bird in the middle of Saratoga Road near its intersection with Lone Lake Road.

"Two construction workers were directing cars around it when we stopped to help," Gilfillen said.

The workers wanted to get to work so Gilfillen took responsibility for the bird's safety.

"I was determined to rescue the eagle. It's our national symbol and more important than that to me, it was an injured, helpless animal," Gilfillen said.

Island County Sheriff's Deputy Ray Tash arrived on the scene to assist. He and Gilfillen coaxed the eagle to the side of the road, then Nutt, who lives nearby. Nutt is knowledgeable about raptors and especially the eagles that live nearby in Saratoga Woods.

With the injured bird on the side of the road and in the bushes, Nutt was able to approach it on his knees, all the while speaking to it in his English accented voice.

"I think he liked my accent," Nutt said

Nutt wore gloves and approached the bird with a quilt. He wrapped the bird's head with the quilt as the eagle grabbed one of his gloves with a talon. He then held the bird in his arms while Gilfillen drove them to Dr. Eric Anderson's clinic in Oak Harbor.

The entire rescue took about two hours, and it did not go entirely smoothly Gillfilen says he was appalled at the lack of understanding passersby displayed during the rescue.

"Someone actually stopped and offered to shoot it, to put it out of its misery, another wondered if it died could we donate it to a school," he said.

Once at the vetrinarian's office the bird was checked for broken bones. Dr. Anderson said the eagle had no broken bones, but had wounds under one wing probably suffered as a result of a squabble with another eagle. He said he hoped the conflict would not re-ignite once the eagle was returned to its home.

"I hope he took his licking and learned his lesson," Anderson said.

Nutt said he is happy to have the eagle in the woods. He said he is almost certain it is one half of a pair he and his neighbors have named Ozzie and Harriet.

"I was concerned the injured bird was one of the pair," he said.

It may be. During the five days the injured eagle was at the vet's office, Nutt never saw the pair, only a solo eagle. The day after the release, a pair was spotted by Nutt and Gilfillen in their usual tree.

Dr. Anderson's clinic is licensed with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as a Wildlife Care clinic. The veterinarians on staff are specially trained to deal with injured wildlife and see about 300 cases a year, three or four of them are injured eagles. There are an estimated 600 pairs of eagles in Washington state.

Bald and golden eagles are on the Endangered Species List and are protected by federal law. The Bald Eagle Protection Act was passed in 1940 and later amended to include the Golden Eagle.

The penalties for misdemeanor violations of the act can result in fines of up to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for organizations and one year's imprisonment. Fines of up to $250,000 and $500,000 for individuals and organizations, respectively, may result from felony violations.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Nov 29
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates