By Val Simon
In April, JohnEdward Wright saw something floundering in the canal behind his house. His mother, Victoria, went to see what it was and she quickly called for Simon, her husband. What JohnEdward was looking at was an eagle chick struggling to get out of the water. For reasons unknown to the Wright Family, the eagle was fumbling awkwardly and unable to manage in the water. Simon, jumped in a kayak with a net in hand. He paddled out to the bird and scooped it up, placing it on the front of the kayak he brought it back to the dock. “It truly looked as though it was relieved to be rescued”, Victoria explained. “We delivered the eagle to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic where it was admitted for care.”
That was April 6th according to Joanna Fitzgerald, the Rehabilitation Director for the Conservancy. “When that eagle came in we didn’t think he’d make it and were very guarded about his prognosis. He was very thin and had a large infestation of mites. Of particular concern were his blood values. They were very poor. He was given electrolytes subcutaneously and orally. A liquid diet called ‘Critical Care’ was introduced. It is an easily digestible food, high in protein, for debilitated carnivores. It worked well for him. He was given this several times a day until his total packed cell and protein levels improved. At that point, solid foods were introduced. He spent about two weeks in intensive care. From intensive care, he went to a unit inside the clinic where he was exposed to the ambient temperature of the clinic. From there, the eagle was placed in a outdoor flight recovery enclosure that is 100 feet long. Birds here must be able to flap their wings and fly back and forth with ease. He spent about three weeks in this last area before beingapproved for release.”
JohnEdward and Victoria got to see first hand the results of their efforts. Tim Thompson, a WRC volunteer pulled up at a remote Island Country Club golf course location carrying a large covered crate in his backseat. He described his primary responsibility at the WRC as being a critter courier, although the formal description is the catch and release program. Tim explained the common behaviors of rehabilitated animals being brought back into the wild. He anticipated what might happen, saying often, in a split second they’re off, while others hop out and hop around before taking flight. Tim thought this eagle chick appeared to be of good size and in very good health, therefore he expected him to be able to cope well.
Out came the cage with JohnEdward close at hand. The cage was opened and with a flap of its wings, the majestic animal was airborne. It circled the golf course then perched on a low roof. A hefty group of blackbirds and mockingbirds was concerned about the new rival and let their presence be known via a barrage of swooping and squawking. Again the eagle took flight, this time going to a tall leafless treetop, but the smaller birds kept up their torment. “Don’t be alarmed, he’s well enough to play a good game of survival,” Tim reiterated. Finally the eagle flew out of sight. Before he left, Tim thanked the Wrights saying, “It is because of you he has such good chances for survival!”
The Rehabilitation Center at the Southwest Florida Conservancy has taken in over 1200 animals so far this year. Joanna said, “It’s been a busier than usual year especially for Marco Island! We’re just happy the people who found him did something. For the sake of the animals, we’re so grateful for people like the Wrights!”
If you find injured or orphaned native wildlife, contact the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic at 239-262-CARE (2273) 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Eastern Time seven days a week.