Starving bald eagle fell out of sky into truck in Belliveaus Cove
Gerald LeBlanc had a cigarette in one hand and a coffee in the other when a bald eagle dropped like a bowling ball from the sky and crash-landed five feet from him, in the back of his pickup truck.
The Belliveaus Cove resident had been enjoying a quiet work break on his front steps and unprepared for such a sight on Oct. 16. Nor was Rusty, his nine-year-old boxer, lounging close by.
“It was a bald eagle and I heard the thump and I just couldn’t believe it,” LeBlanc had said. “Me and Rusty were in shock. Here’s this bald eagle crashing down in front of us. He tried to fly off the truck and just fell off onto the ground.”
The juvenile eagle was sent to the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. The creature was so malnourished the odds of his survival were only about 50-50.
Two Department of Lands and Forestry officers had immediately responded to LeBlanc’s call. The pair quickly transported the starving creature to the animal rescue facility over 300 kilometres away.
But before that, LeBlanc and Rusty had tag teamed to prepare the bird for travel. Rusty had gently pinned the creature to the ground while LeBlanc fetched a large Rubbermaid tub to place the eagle in.
He had recalled one of the surprised officers saying he had never dealt with a case like this one.
Murdo Messer, chairman and co-founder of Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, figured it was pure coincidence that the eagle landed in LeBlanc’s truck. But he did say he was surprised the bird had been airborne at all since it had lost nearly all of its muscle mass.
“Extremely emaciated, and he was not eating very well,” said Messer. “His body has been consuming its own muscles in order to stay alive.”
The eagle was given small amounts of fluids and some nutrition.
The centre treats about 30 to 40 eagles a year, and almost all arrive starving and on death’s doorstep, said Messer. In this case, he figured the bird was not properly nourished as a baby and never recovered.
Messer said there are three main reasons why eagles come to him starving. About 40 per cent of the time the eagle is suffering from lead poisoning picked up from eating animal carcasses left behind by hunters. They contain fragments of lead from ammunition and only a pencil tip amount is needed to kill an eagle, he said. The other cases involve collisions with automobiles or power lines. The other primary cause is electrocution.
“If they’re too weak to fly they can’t hunt and if they can’t hunt, they’re going to starve to death,” he said. “He’s a very sick bird but we’ll give him the best chance to recover.”
Unfortunately he did not.
The emaciated bald eagle after arriving at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.