Freeland couple help bruised, emaciated bald eagle

Annette and Keith Jacobs

An injured mature bald eagle will likely survive to soar another day over South Whidbey thanks to the quick actions of a few Freeland residents.

Keith and Annette Jacobs, along with the help of neighbor Sam Breyer, discovered the grounded avian near their homes Tuesday and were instrumental in getting it to a wildlife recovery center. Unable to take flight with a bruised wing and severely emaciated, the bird might have starved to death had they not intervened.

“They kept eyes on him for at least 24 hours,” said Bob Drake, a volunteer with Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

“This bird wouldn’t have lasted much longer,” he added.

Located on San Juan Island, the non-profit organization takes in injured and orphaned wildlife, providing them with medical care until they are healthy enough to be released back into their original habitat. Wolf Hollow also provides public education and conducts non-invasive research, according to its website.

The eagle, estimated to be a mature adult, was found by Annette Jacobs near their home above Double Bluff off Lancaster Road.

“He was just walking in the yard, this big, huge ol’ eagle,” she said. “I thought that’s not right.”

Watching him struggle to reach a low fence, it became immediately apparent that something was wrong. They decided to capture the bird and bring it to a vet. Keith Jacobs said he made a few comical attempts to do so — apparently the eagle was a faster hopper than him — before agreeing they needed reinforcements. Keith Jacobs photo | A bald eagle rescued from Freeland looks out from a cage before being transported to a San Juan Island recovery center.

Getting help was harder than they expected, however. Efforts to reach experts on Whidbey were unsuccessful, and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife turned them away. Keith Jacobs said he was told the agency didn’t have the resources to come and collect a single eagle. Desperate to help the wounded bird, the lack of assistance was frustrating, he said.

“It was just rather disappointing to get that kind of response,” Keith Jacobs said.

Eventually, they contacted Wolf Hollow. The organization dispatched Bob Drake, an Oak Harbor-based volunteer, to come and retrieve the eagle. He arrived Wednesday, and a short time later the bird was on its way to the rehabilitation center on San Juan Island.

Vicki Taylor, a Wolf Hollow staffer who helps with wildlife rehabilitation, said x-rays of the eagle revealed no broken bones. It does have some muscle damage, however, that kept it grounded. The injury appears to be the result of blunt-force trauma, possibly from being hit by a car or striking a fixed object.

Taylor said it’s unclear whether the bird would have recovered on its own, and could not say for sure whether it will survive. If it does, the organization will likely release it near Double Bluff where it was captured.

This is the third eagle from the Freeland area the center has taken in this year. According to Taylor, injuries have been across the board so there’s no single factor responsible.

“Freeland seems to be eagle center this year,” Drake agreed.

He added that the Jacobs were extraordinarily helpful in the rescue, a compliment they took in stride. Migrating to Whidbey about 20 years ago from Southern California, they didn’t grow up with wildlife that’s so common in the Northwest, and were happy to help.

“We both have a sense of preservation and how important that is,” Keith Jacobs said.

He added that Wolf Hollow’s responsiveness was impressive and that they’d be adding them to their list of groups they donate to.