Golden ea­gle res­cued by Wish­ful Dreams

Ea­gle be­ing looked af­ter at the Cobe­quid Wildlife Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre


The Cape Sable Is­land lob­ster fish­ing boat Wish­ful Dreams lived up to its name for a golden ea­gle res­cued by the ves­sel’s crew on May 2 af­ter the bird was found near death float­ing on the fish­ing grounds about a mile-and-a-half north­west of Seal Is­land.

“We were haul­ing gear and steam­ing to an­other string and I hap­pened to see him in the wa­ter,” said crewmem­ber Steven Nick­er­son. “I didn’t re­ally know what it was. I knew it was a dif­fer­ent kind of bird. I thought it was dead but then I hap­pened to see his head bob­bing up and down so I got Kevin (Swim, the boat’s cap­tain) to turn around and go back. We got along­side it and it was still alive so we got him aboard.”

Nick­er­son said it was around noon­time when they picked the ea­gle up.

“We only had an­other four or five strings to haul so I put him on the other side of the boat and wrapped him up in one of my Wet, ex­hausted but alive is how the crew of the lob­ster fish­ing boat Wish­ful Dreams found a golden ea­gle on the fish­ing grounds on May 2. The ea­gle is now at the Cobe­quid Wildlife Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre and is ex­pected to make a full re­cov­ery. sweaters,” he said. “I knew he was cold be­cause he was shak­ing a lit­tle bit but he couldn’t get up. He was lay­ing with his head down. It looked liked he was on his last legs.”

Nick­er­son moved the ea­gle up by the wheel­house where it was warmer and said the ea­gle started to perk up a lit­tle bit. He then put the ea­gle where the heater is to sit and dry off.

“I fig­ured he might perk up and we left him there un­til we got done,” he said.

Af­ter the last lob­ster traps were hauled, the deck was cleaned and Wish­ful Dreams be­gan steam­ing back to port, Nick­er­son said he and fel­low crewmem­ber Justin Con­rad went to check on the ea­gle and it “kinda stood up.”

A call was made to shore by Con­rad to his part­ner to con­tact the De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources (DNR), who were wait­ing at the Newell­ton wharf when the Wish­ful Dreams ar­rived.

“I’m glad he came to,” said Nick­er­son. “If we hadn’t picked him up he wouldn’t have sur­vived be­cause no one else would have been around there to see him. It was just luck. We were go­ing by, he was go­ing by… it was just luck. We just did what we thought, get him warm and dry. “

The ex­pe­ri­ence is one Nick­er­son won’t for­get.

“It felt awe­some to save him. I’d never seen some­thing like that (an ea­gle) that close up. I’ve seen them fly­ing around but to see one that close up and to touch it and to see it come alive it was awe­some.”

Af­ter spend­ing the night in Yarmouth, the golden ea­gle was trans­ported to the Cobe­quid Wildlife Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre (CWRC) in Brook­field by DNR.

“When DNR brought him to us, he looked pretty tired but noth­ing was bro­ken. His legs and wings were work­ing. He was alert and he wasn’t very thin ei­ther,” said Murdo Messer, co-founder of the CWRC. “Usu­ally when they are brought in they’re su­per ema­ci­ated. This guy was thin but not su­per thin, so he was in pretty good shape other than hav­ing been swim­ming in the ocean.”

Messer said there could be a num­ber of rea­sons why the golden ea­gle was in the ocean.

“Maybe he was chas­ing a fish and got stuck and couldn’t let go… we don’t know why he was in the wa­ter,” he said.

“Some­times once they’re in the wa­ter, they’re ei­ther un­able or un­will­ing to let go of what they caught,” he said. As a re­sult, ea­gles can some­times be­come ex­hausted and wa­ter­logged as they at­tempt to swim ashore with their meal.

The CWRC will be do­ing tests and x-rays on the ea­gle to make sure ev­ery­thing is okay.

“Once we know ev­ery­thing is okay with him, it’s just a mat­ter of let­ting him rest up for a bit and re­gain his strength and re­turn him back to the wild,” said Messer, who es­ti­mated the CWRC will prob­a­bly keep the ea­gle for two or three weeks.

“We want to make sure he can fly and to do that we have a large fly­away in our big rap­tor build­ing and right now we have seven ea­gles in it so we have to catch the ea­gles and put them in a tem­po­rary space and let the golden ea­gle fly on his own. If we put them in there to­gether, they would prob­a­bly fight so we have to sep­a­rate them. Once we know he can fly he’s out of here.”

The Cobe­quid Wildlife Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre is a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion founded in 2001 by Messer and his wife, He­lene Van Don­inck, a vet­eri­nar­ian. This is the first time the CWRC has treated a golden ea­gle, whose nor­mal range is west­ern North Amer­ica.

“It’s pretty im­pres­sive, pretty amaz­ing,” said Messer. “We’ve seen peo­ple res­cu­ing swim­ming ea­gles but not when it was that far off the coast. He would have been quite ex­hausted and there’s no doubt that those men saved his life.”

Messer said if peo­ple would like to do­nate to help care for the an­i­mal they can through the CWRC Face­book page or their web­site at

The ea­gle is be­ing cared for at the Cobe­quid Wildlife Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre.

The golden ea­gle plucked from the ocean by the crew of the lob­ster fish­ing boat Wish­ful Dreams was kept warm on his ride back to land.

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