Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wrapped In Line: Hayward Eagle

Greetings everyone,

It's hard to explain how incredibly difficult it is to watch patient after patient come into our clinic with human inflicted injuries. Lead poisoned loons, hummingbirds colliding with windows, hawks that have been shot by upset individuals, even great-horned owls that have been hit by snowmobiles... hard to believe, but we've seen it all.

This particular eagle case was no exception.

Before I begin with some pictures of this beautiful bird, I'd just like to make a plug for the health and safety of all wildlife. It was just this past weekend that I went out fishing, and spent more time cleaning up the tangled line in the shrubs and water than I did actually fishing. I suppose working at an animal rehabilitaton center makes you more prone to noticing line hanging in shrubs, washed up on the beach, or caught on logs in the water, but it's something we all need to work at being more aware of. Not every cast can be as perfect as the pros...

  Image from Summit County Citizens Voice, line tangled in grass

but after you stop feeling embarrassed for snagging your line, 
please do your best to clean up after your line and tackle.

A photo of the eagle's face that was taken after fishing line had been untangled from the beak. Notice the white lines engraved near the nares (nostrils) from the fishing line 

After a long journey down from Hayward, WI this juvenile bald eagle made it to the clinic with no time to spare. His injury... tangled in musky fishing line. Not just sort-of tangled in fishing line, but tangled to the point of circulation loss in his toes, damage to his beak, open wounds on his leg, severe muscle loss in his leg, and extremely underweight. To cause such a lengthy list of issues, we estimate that the line had been wrapped around the eagle for several weeks.

The swelling in the toes is astounding, over twice the size as normal

Notice the size difference in the feet, and the injury to the upper left leg, all caused by fishing line

With line wrapped so tightly around his legs and toes, his extremities began to lose circulation. The leg itself had barely any muscle left, and the severe amount of swelling in the foot left the bird physically unable to grasp. 

After the initial exam, treatment is to soak his feet twice daily to help increase circulation back into the feet, and reduce any further infections to the legs

The fishing line perhaps belonged to a bait such as this musky bait that came in on a patient eagle several years back

Many fishermen are honored to see eagles so close in the summertime, especially up here in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. But sadly, young eagles on their first fishing ventures sometimes mistake musky baits for a delicious meal. To their defense, some of them actually look edible these days. Loons can get tangled up in line that has been snagged underwater. Ducks get tangled with line that has been snagged close to shore.

lakefront property owners,
and all water-body seeking outdoor enthusiasts...
You can prevent injuries such as these!!!

Please do your part in cleaning up our natural resources. Future generations of people and wildlife depend on it. Whether it happens to be your mistake or one of someone else, please don't leave it lying around!

The way I look at it... I wouldn't want to see my kids, grand-kids, and great grand-kids stepping on fishing hooks and seeing a line-littered shoreline. To those of you who take the extra couple minutes to remove line, lures, and bobbers from the environment... the birds and myself would like to personally THANK YOU!!

Besides... sometimes those snagged lures are the luckiest ones!

- Katie Rymer, Assistant Avian Rehabilitator

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