Getting out of the car spooked the bird but instead of flying away it ran a few steps with one wing up and the other one down. At this point we figured that he had an injured wing so we went to the Crex visitor center to report our observation. Unfortunately the volunteers who man the visitors center on Sundays are typically retirees who do not have much experience dealing with wildlife and this Sunday was no exception. Next we tried to call the Raptor Center which is down in the Twin Cities. We reached their automated system which gave us an emergency number. We called that and got another automated system which gave basic directions on what to do if you found an injured raptor and then referred you to the website.
At this point we figured that we were on our own. It had been about 30 minutes so we went back into the park to check on the bird and found that he was still on the ground in the same spot. We then left the park and drove 20 miles to the nearest town. There we found a Walmart and purchased the largest animal carrier that they had, a pair of leather garden gloves and a sheet, since it was an emergency I forwent my boycott of Walmart for their bad business and environmental practices.
We returned to the park, over an hour had passed, and the eagle was still in the same spot. I headed out with the cage, gloves and sheet. I had Michelle stay at the road since the footing was not that great, being a dried up lake bed, and she took some pictures.
As I approached the eagle tried to run, but he tripped over his bad wing and ended up on his back. With his bad wing he could not turn himself back over. So I threw the sheet over him so that he would calm down.I then worked to gather him up so that I could place him in the cage. Unfortunately his wing was still out and while I was trying to get it folded back in his head came uncovered. He immediately panicked and used me to get himself flipped back over. I backed off not wanting to get impaled by his talons, I don't think leather garden gloves where meant to stop an eagles talon.He scurried away right to a depression in the ground that still contained water and mud.He tripped again and ended up on his back in the mud. This was a huge problem. I tried to cover him up with the sheet again to calm him down but as the sheet began to cover him he clawed at it with his talons and pushed himself further into the mud. His head went under the mud for a second and I was worried that he might drown. I tried to get down to him so that I could pull him out but I was sinking up to the top of my thighs before I could reach him. I backed off to let us both regain our composure. There was no way that I could get out to the bird without going into the deep mud and taking a chance of loosing my footing.
So I found a stick on the ground, slid it under the bird and used it to pull him out of the mud. He tried to push himself away from me and further into the mud but I would not let him go. I told him right there that I would not let him die. I moved the cage as close to the water/mud as I could to the left of the bird and then pivoted his head into the cage. I then covered his head up with the sheet to calm him down. I then folded in his good wing and had to lift the cage out of the mud to fold in his bad wing which was underneath him. Unfortunately he was half way in when he grabbed the cage door with his talon and would not go in any further. I put the stick that I used to get him out of the mud behind his talon to keep him from backing out and worked on getting his talons free from the door. When I freed one talon he let go of the door and clasped the stick instead. I then turned the stick and put it, along with the rest of the bird, inside the cage. The stick was too big to fit into the cage with the door shut so I left the door open with the stick protruding.
By this time Michelle came down because she was worried because she could not see what was happening. I was not happy with how the bird was sitting in the cage but I wanted to get it away from the mud before I tried to fix the situation. As I was carrying the cage to the road David and Debbie Oxendale pulled up in their SUV. David was a volunteer at Crex and had some experience helping with wild birds. He helped me to get the eagle straightened out on his back, we would have preferred to have him on his feet but we thought that turning him over might cause more damage.
Together with Dave and Debbie we took the eagle back to the visitors center. Dave then made some calls trying to find someone that was available to assist the bird. He talked with someone at the DNR and they suggested the Raptor Center. After a few times through the automated system he was able to get a hold of someone. Since we could not get a hold of anyone that could help out by Crex it was decided that we would take the bird to the Raptor Center. So we loaded the bird in the car, thanked David and Debbie for their help and drove back to the cities. We arrived at the Raptor Center just after 4pm. They took the eagle in and looked at him right away. It was obvious that he had a problem with his wing but he still had some fight in him when they took him from the cage, which they said was a good sign. They were very positive about his prospects to live which made all the work and stress of the rescue worth while.
The whole ordeal was pretty stressful and between the stress, exertion, and not eating until late my blood sugar dropped so low that I got dizzy and had to eat a piece of sugared candy. Despite all that I consider helping this bird live is the best birthday present that I have ever received.
I am currently waiting to hear from the raptor center on his progress and will update this post when I get word.
I just put up another post with an update on the bird and a photo taken by John Mikes at Weekend Shooter that might explain what happened in the first place. You can find the new post here http://ecobirder.blogspot.com/2007/08/eagle-rescue-update.html