Sharp-eyed rescuers revive eagle found clinging to life

Sharp-eyed rescuers revive eagle found clinging to life
By Scott Sandsberry

Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA The caller had reported seeing a dead eagle in his pasture, so when John McGowan approached it, he certainly didn't think he was looking at Sleeping Beauty.

Yep, he thought. Dead bald eagle.

That was Friday morning.

On Monday, thanks to some quick human response and some timely veterinary care, that not-so-dead eagle was soaring once again.

McGowan, who manages the Oak Creek Wildlife Area in Naches, Yakima County, had received a call about a dead eagle in a pasture. When he rolled it over with his foot to see if he could tell what might have caused its death, he said, "One leg sort of stiffened out. Then I watched it for a minute, and it took a breath.

"One breath about every 30 seconds. That's how close to death it was."

So McGowan put the eagle into a grain-feed bag and loaded it into his truck. When he returned to the Oak Creek headquarters, he called Marsha Flamm of the Raptor House Rehabilitation Center, an East Selah-based nonprofit center specializing in rescuing injured birds of prey.

When Flamm arrived at Oak Creek, she pulled the eagle out of the feed bag, noticed the head was kinked and presumed, as had McGowan, the eagle was beyond recovery.

"I tried to straighten the head and thought, 'Oh no, it's dead. Rigor mortis has set in,' because it was so stiff," she said. "But when I got the head in the right position, it took a deep breath." And then it, er, evacuated all over her.

"And man, did it stink, let me tell you," Flamm said. "She smelled like horse apples."

Which might have been appropriate. McGowan and Flamm believe the eagle may have been scavenging from a pasture horse that had been euthanized with a sleeping agent.

The drugs that killed the horse might then have poisoned the eagle, a possibility being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which enforces the Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Flamm immediately took the eagle a 14-pound female adult bald to the Summitview Cowiche Veterinary Clinic, where staffers put the bird on an IV solution and tended to it for more than 30 hours. Veterinarian Christine Ramsey gave it a name: Sleeping Beauty.

By Saturday morning, Sleeping Beauty was no longer asleep. By that afternoon, she wanted out in a big way.

Ramsey and Flamm were both there at Oak Creek on Monday to release the bird back into the wild.

Flamm, whose Raptor House has long struggled with keeping its doors open for lack of money, said she hopes raptor lovers will make donations to the veterinary clinic to cover the $1,010 in expenses it took to keep the eagle alive.

As far as McGowan is concerned, that part is nothing short of a miracle.

"I would bet right there on the spot," he said, "there was no way that eagle was going to live."

Copyright 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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