Tag Archives: bald eagle

Nature Prevails

Is a rescue mission a success if there isn’t any rescue? For two weeks, a bald eagle with two of its toes caught in a foothold trap has eluded capture.

When the eagle was spotted flying around Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge with the trap in late April by Refuge Manager Keith Ramos, he and his staff launched a rescue attempt that would grow to involve tree climbers, a utility company, a buffet of carcasses as eagle lure, and even an industrial strength magnet. They were intent on freeing the bird, one of a pair nesting along the road at this remote refuge in the far eastern reaches of Maine. If they could catch the bird, it could be attended to by a wildlife veterinarian if necessary.

The eagle could still “fly powerfully,” said Ray Brown, refuge biologist, who spent many a cold hour hunkered in a portable blind watching and waiting for the bird to land where it could be caught. Spring thaw happens late in that neck of the woods and daytime temps hovered in the 30s.

On the second morning of the search, rescuers were dismayed to find the eagle hanging upside down in a tall white pine tangled by the trap around a branch. She wasn’t moving and was presumed dead. Intent on salvaging the bird, the rescue team – expanded to include biologists from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife – brought in a telescoping ladder and climbing equipment by canoe to reach the tree.

As they got closer, spirits lifted when the eagle moved. When a local climber, with assistance from refuge law enforcement officer Amanda Hardaswick, got within an arm’s length of the powerful animal, it broke free and flew away.

Nearly two weeks later, the chase is still on.

The eagle is presumed to be the female in the nesting pair because of her size and recognizable red and silver leg bands. For a number of days she continued to return to her mate, but continued to elude capture. The rescuers turned their ingenuity into higher gear.

  • When the eagle got tangled again on a nearby osprey nest platform, they called on the local power company, Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative. With a bucket truck and a net, they were optimistic, but she flew away again.
  • When the eagle appeared to be tangled in a hardwood tree, professional tree climbers from the Biodiversity Research Institute were called in, but the eagle escaped once again.
  • Traps were laid, baited with a deer carcass, dead fish, and even a goose, but no luck luring her to the ground where Ray was ready in the blind to deploy a rocket net.
  • An 80-pound industrial strength magnet was covered with deer hair in the hope that it would hold the trap, and the eagle, long enough to capture her.

No luck.

The eagle hadn’t been seen for a week, and a new female took up residence in the nest. Brown feathers in the newcomer’s tail were telltale signs that she is a younger bird. It began to seem unlikely that the trapped bird had survived.

Turns out she’s a survivor. The eagle reappeared this week, dirty and disheveled, but with no trap! The extent of injury to her toes remains to be seen, however she appears healthy considering her ordeal. Her first order of business? Kicking that newcomer out of the nest.

We want to mention that leg hold traps are used by trappers during regulated trapping seasons in Maine and just across the border in Canada. If the trap is retrieved, law enforcement officers may know more about its source to pursue that part of the eagle’s story.

Keith and his staff would like to thank the many individuals and organizations who have helped rescue the eagle including

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Charlie Todd, Erynn Call, Tom Schaeffer, Henry Jones, and Brittany Currier
Biodiversity Research Institute, Bill Hanson and Chris Persico
-Mark McCullough, USFWS
Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative
Cianbro Corporation
City of Calais Public Works and Fire Department
Avian Haven

Difei holds her award-winning artwork. Photo courtesy of her mom, Ivy Wang.

Interview with New Jersey 5th-grade winner in national endangered species art contest

Difei holds her award-winning artwork. Photo courtesy of her mom, Ivy Wang.

Difei Li holds her award-winning artwork. Photo courtesy of Ivy Wang.

Q. Why did you enter the endangered species art contest? A. I entered the endangered species art contest because I wanted to show the world–not just USA–that saving our species, and others, is important. We should all participate to help animals thrive and live as good as we do.

Q. Why are you interested in endangered animals? A. I am interested in endangered animals because we need to help them survive and live. Just like us, we do not want our kind die, and they don’t want theirs to. It will be sad to never see some animal species again if they die out and we don’t protect them.

This eagle drawing by 10-year-old Difei Li won the 3-5 grade category of the Endangered Species Youth Art Contest!

This eagle drawing by 10-year-old Difei Li won the 3-5 grade category of the Endangered Species Youth Art Contest!

Q. What made you choose the eagle and flag for your artwork? A. I chose these because eagle is our country’s bird, and it’s endangered! We need to help save it, or else why use it as our symbol? The flag shows our country, and the eagle stands for being someone important in our nation. So I am letting everyone know that we have to help this bird survive and keep being our most popular bird.

Q. What kinds of animals did you include inside the animal (What an incredible idea!)? The animals inside the young eagle were all endangered species of the USA. Not just protecting the bald eagle, we also have to save other animals, too. Some of the animals are the gray wolf, leatherback sea turtle, black-footed ferret, giant sea bass, and others.

Q. Are you excited for your win? A. Yes, because it is a great honor to be selected out of so many great pieces of artwork and win the 3-5 grade category. I think it is really hard, so whoever won the other categories should also be happy.

Q. Do you plan to continue to create artwork? Of course, I always love to draw, especially drawing realistic animals. During the process, sometimes you mess up and feel frustrated, but the result is always great. Creating artwork makes me feel happy during the process and at the end when I finish. Nothing is impossible, just don’t give up.

Check out the other youth art contest winning and semifinalist entries!

Recovering bald eagles in Maine

Credit: Lance Roberts/USFWS

The bald eagle’s recovery is our greatest endangered species success. Credit: Lance Roberts/USFWS

Forty years ago, our nation’s symbol was in dire straits.

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) population had dwindled to such a low number that the iconic species was in danger of extinction—primarily the result of deforestation and extensive pesticide contamination. In Maine, DDT and other chemicals was heavily sprayed to kill the spruce bud worm, which had devastated balsam fir and spruce trees throughout the state.

Residue from these pesticides ran off into lakes and streams, contaminating fish the bird preyed on. Consuming animals with high levels of chemicals had a profound effect on eagle reproduction, causing eagles to lay eggs with shells so thin and brittle they often cracked before hatching. With few chicks hatching by 1976, when aerial surveys began, the state was home to fewer than three dozen individuals.

Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Dave Menke/USFWS

Eagle chicks. Credit: Dave Menke/USFWS

The 1972 DDT ban helped improve habitat quality for the bald eagle and other species across the U.S. The effort to recover the eagle in Maine was two-fold—understanding the effect of chemical pollution of the species’ prey, and protecting nesting areas to promote hatchling success and population growth.

“It was a state-federal partnership from beginning to end,” says Charlie Todd of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, referring to initiatives to recover the bald eagle. “It started with a Section 6 grant under the Endangered Species Act—money to help the state monitor eagles. Maine supplied the manpower.”

Bald eagle. Credit: Lori Iverson/USFWS

Bald eagle. Credit: Lori Iverson/USFWS

First, researchers looked to find whether the eagle, a carrion feeder, could be lured away from contaminated prey with “clean” food—road-killed deer and moose and the carcasses of trapped beavers and raccoons.

Mark McCollough, now a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, began working toward an answer during his doctoral studies at the University of Maine in the late 1970s. With funding from Section 6 grants, McCollough’s began his research in Cobscook Bay State Park—home to the last concentration of bald eagles in New England. Here, he set out the bait.

For five years, McCollough furnished a 70-ton banquet of dead animals that game wardens provided. He recorded the action of eagles and forwarded this information, along with eagle band numbers, to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. The results documented that, rather than the estimated five to 10 percent that lived to be five years old, 70 percent reached adulthood. By the late 1980s, the Maine population was experiencing encouraging growth. … Finish reading this story on our endangered species website!

Bald eagle holding a fish in its talons at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Credit: Ron Holmes/USFWS

Bald eagle holding a fish in its talons. Credit: Ron Holmes/USFWS