Lisa Brainard: Keep your eagle eye out to help injured bald eagle


LISA BRAINARD/BLUFF COUNTRY READER An eagle in the state line area of Granger, Minn., and Florenceville, Iowa, has had major trauma to its left eye. My camera was way zoomed in for this shot of the eye, with further enlargement done in editing.
By : 
Lisa Brainard
Journey vs. Destination

I’m asking for your help this week.

It’s not so much for me as for the living, flying, glorious symbol of this country, the bald eagle – a specific bald eagle. It’s been injured and has had serious trauma to its left eye. In fact, the eyeball may be missing from the eye socket. And that’s not a good thing. We need to keep our own sets of eyes out to make sure it’s flying and eating, that it’s not failing.

There’s a bald eagle nest on the Upper Iowa River in the vicinity of the state-line-straddling villages of Granger, Minn., and Florenceville, Iowa. I’ve followed the comings and goings at the nest as possible since discovering it a couple years ago. More on that later…

But a week ago I discovered something that brought tears to my own eyes. I understand all too well how having messed-up vision in one’s eye or eyes can affect a person. I can’t imagine how missing vision might affect an eagle. There’s a reason for the phrase “eagle eye.” Eagles use their sharp vision for hunting and then surviving as they capture small animals and fish. Missing the vision in one eye could seriously mess up the depth perception needed to successfully hunt. So, where will that next meal come from?

I posted photos of the eagle on my own Facebook page and also to the Minnesota Naturalists Facebook page (the one with the most members of all the groups available). Someone suggested contacting the Minnesota Raptor Center, associated with the University of Minnesota’s veterinary program. I called and left a message as the work week headed into the weekend, noting the photos could be seen immediately on Facebook.

A woman called back and left a message. She said, surprisingly, she knew the area and had Decorah ties. She’d already seen the photos online. And she thanked me for caring. She also confirmed what I’d suspected. They couldn’t set up to capture an eagle that likely could still fly without further harming it. If it couldn’t fly, their website, www.raptor.umn.edu, gives details on how people can best restrain and transport an eagle or other raptor to their facility.

So, the next best thing in our situation on the state line is to keep our eyes alert to see our eagle flying and, hopefully, remaining healthy. As a friend pointed out, eagles will eat carrion at times, so are not 100 percent dependent on hunting skills – although I’m sure they prefer a fresh kill.

If you see an eagle that seems in trouble, or hurt on the ground, as noted, go to www.raptor.umn.edu for advice on what to do to help save the eagle and get it help. I’d imagine they’d also want to hear if, heaven forbid, an eagle was found no longer alive. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that for our eagle.

I’m not sure the nest is being used this year. I haven’t been to see it much and have not spotted a telltale white head peeking above the top of the nest. But the nest and perch have given me so much joy over time.

Last year, a pair of eagles raised a lone eaglet I came to call “Junior.” Oh my, how Junior cried and protested at being left alone by his parents. Then, I’d see him stretching and flapping his wings as he perched, practicing for that big day he’d finally attempt that huge feat of flying, known as fledging. I was proud as an eagle parent – yet also a little sad – when he was no longer steadfastly perched in the nest tree, but out and about living as eagles do.

Bald eagles are part of the world of nature and as such, normal yet bad things can happen to them. For example, the father eagle at the famous Decorah nest disappeared during a winter storm a few years back, leaving the mother to raise their three eaglets on her own. And she did it. Then everyone watched as other male eagles courted her to become her new partner. Nature just keeps on keepin’ on…

Anyway, please keep an eye out for eagles and possible health issues. After seeing them make a return from the endangered species list, let’s do what we can to help our area’s resident eagles. Thanks so much!

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this column weekly for over 15 years.