A young golden eagle is lucky to have been found by humans in a city with a wildlife rehabilitation centre, an Alaska researcher says.
Local conservation and bylaw officers were called to the city's North Shore near the Overlanders Bridge in Kamloops, B.C., on Dec. 29 to find a grounded, under-weight eagle that's not yet a year old.
"Because it was unable to fly, they were able to catch it," said Adrienne Clay, the animal care supervisor on shift when the officers brought the bird to the B.C. Wildlife Park's Fawcett Family Wildlife Health Centre.
Rescuers then noticed the bird was sporting a GPS tracker on its back.
Clay and her team called the phone number on the tracker to find out where the bird came from.
It turns out that the bird is part of a large study out of Denali National Park in Alaska that tracks golden eagle migration patterns throughout the year.Mortality rates for golden eagles in their first year of life vary, but it's not unusual for young birds to starve, according to Carol McIntyre, a wildlife biologist in Denali National Park who studies golden eagles.
"It's not surprising that it would be emaciated and starving," McIntyre said. "The No. 1 cause of death in [previous] studies seems to be starvation."
Starving, unable to fly
Clay expects the eagle will survive once it gains weight.
"Overall it's in pretty good condition. It's quite thin," Clay said. "It hasn't been able to hunt and get the food that it needs."
"What is surprising is that it was starving in Kamloops and someone actually found it."
Golden eagles generally starve in rural areas, she said.
In 30 years of studying golden eagles, McIntyre said she hasn't seen anything like this before.
"Right away it tells me what a lucky eagle it was to be starving in Kamloops where one of the premier wildlife veterinarian services is available to him," McIntyre said. "That's pretty serendipitous if you ask me."
This event adds another element to her research: birds being found by humans and rehabilitated to continue their journey.
The staff at the B.C. Wildlife Park will continue to nurse the bird back to health and hope to get it outdoors as soon as possible.
"We're going to get it plumped up, get it back up on its feet," Clay said.
Once they know it can fly, they'll return the bird to the wild.