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Bald eagle recovering this Fourth of July after crash landing in Durango

Raptor resting at rehab center after flying into power lines
An eagle rescued by two men in south Durango is recovering in a flight cage at a wildlife rehab center near Del Norte. The bird’s wings are slightly spread and his feathers slightly puffed in defense, said Michael Sirochman, a technician caring for the eagle, although eagles’ feathers also stick out when they are not feeling well.

This Fourth of July, a bald eagle, America’s national bird, is recovering at an animal rehabilitation center after apparently flying into power lines in south Durango.

He is doing well and should start flying again soon despite some soft tissue damage, according to a veterinarian technician at a wildlife rehabilitation center near Del Norte.

The eagle was found Sunday by Marvin Williams and Russell Reynolds, who were walking along a trail behind La Plata County Humane Society. Williams said he heard a blast, then saw the eagle crash through power lines and land in the Animas River.

The two men helped the eagle out of the river and to the riverbank, Reynolds said, and gave it space to avoid being struck by the bird’s talons. Williams recited a prayer for the eagle in Navajo as it regained consciousness, he said.

Williams and Reynolds left the raptor and made their way to the Humane Society to notify animal control. Along the way, they encountered a police officer, who called it in to Colorado Parks and Wildlife after hearing their story.

“There was a very wet, very unhappy eagle on the shoreline,” said CPW Officer Stephanie Taylor. Fishermen and other people on the river gathered to watch as Taylor captured the eagle and put it in a crate, after making sure there was “nothing too traumatically wrong with him,” she said.

An eagle rescue is “not normal per se, but it does happen every once in a while,” Taylor said. When Parks and Wildlife does rescue eagles, it is normally after they fly though power lines or get hit by cars.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife took the injured bald eagle to a local veterinarian, and eventually to a rehab center near Del Norte. Once the eagle is able to fly again, it will be released back into the wild near the Animas River.
Local residents Russell Reynolds, left, and Marvin Williams helped a bald eagle out of the Animas River on Sunday after it flew into the power lines and fell into the water, they said.

Taylor took the eagle to a veterinarian at Durango Animal Hospital who was unable to determine any obvious injuries to the bird beyond mild head trauma, presumably from its crash landing. It was apparent the bird was hurt, but the veterinarian did not identify any broken bones.

The eagle showed “no interest in flying, which means it has some type of injury,” said Joe Lewandowski, spokesman for Parks and Wildlife in Durango.

Michael Sirochman, veterinarian technician and manager at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife rehabilitation center in Del Norte, was unable to pinpoint what may be wrong with the bird, though he said there are most likely soft tissue injuries that are preventing the eagle from flying.

Eagles don’t often make the mistake of flying into power lines, Sirochman said, so it’s possible the eagle’s laser-sharp attention was focused on a fish.

The eagle, which has not been given a name or a number, will rest for a few weeks to allow the soft tissue to heal on its own. The bird might also have muscle soreness resulting from the fall, or from trying to swim out of the river, Sirochman said.

But the eagle has been eating, which is a good sign. If it does not start flying in a month or so on its own, Sirochman will give the eagle some added encouragement to fly. He does so by walking under the eagle in the flight cage, and the bird’s natural reaction will be to fly away, he said. Otherwise, Sirochman will make gentle noises to prod it.

“The rehab process is such a long process,” Sirochman said. “We do everything we can to try not to stress him out here.”

But Sirochman said he is confident the eagle will fly again on its own.

It’s not totally uncommon for bald eagles to become injured and end up in the rehab center, Sirochman said. The facility typically sees more in the winter – up to a half dozen – before they fly to Northern Canada for the summer, he said.

When CPW rescues wild animals such as bald eagles, they are typically released back into the wild where they were found, Lewandowski said. And because eagles are typically drawn to waterways, the one rescued last week will likely be released near the Animas River.

ehayes@durangoherald.com

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