Harold Michon, of Rocky Bay First Nation, knew exactly what he had to do when he heard of a dying eagle in a landfill of the neighbouring community of Macdiarmid — just what his grandfather taught him.
"I was raised by my grandfather," Michon said. "He was a trapper and all that other stuff, just like I am, and we always patched up animals."
"Of course, I was right by his side, and he had two philosophies: either we can help it, or it's dead," Michon said. "He didn't like suffering, just like I don't like suffering."
Michon heard about the eagle about a month ago from a friend.
"It wasn't eating, it wasn't drinking," Michon said. "It was all boney and I would say near death. Well, it was near death; I could see some bruising on it where the other animals were picking at it already, the other birds."
Michon brought the eagle home and soon found what was wrong — a bottle cap had become lodged in its throat.
"I went inside with my fingers, and pulled the [bottle cap] out," he said. "He stiffened right up. I guess he got the idea that I was helping."
Then began a slow, day-by-day rehabilitation process. The first day, Michon put the eagle in a cage, and waited an hour for the eagle to relax. Then, Michon gave him some water. Another hour later, he fed it for the first time. And so they went, one day at a time.
'I knew he was going to make it'
On the fourth day, the eagle — Michon estimates it's five or six years old — had regained enough strength to start tearing up its own food.
"After day four, I knew he was going to make it, so I made him a bigger cage," Michon said. "We did a little therapy getting his wings going, getting them flapping."
"So now, he's starting to flap his wings," he said. "He's starting to show strength."
Michon said the eagle likely had the bottle cap in its throat for a long time given the state it was in when he brought it home.
"He's putting muscle on," Michon said. "He just doesn't have quite the power to hold on to the roost yet — I made him a little roost there — but he's preening himself, he's washing himself, doing all the things that he didn't do when I first got him."
"He's getting quite rebellious, which I like."
Currently, the eagle is primarily eating fish, and Michon was quick to thank the other Rocky Bay residents, who've been bringing him a supply of fish to feed to the eagle.
Michon is being careful not to bond too much with the eagle, as his goal is to release it back into the wild as soon as possible.
"I'll feed him and make sure he's got food, and then I'll stay away for a day, just to keep him as wild as he can [be]," Michon said. "It's gonna be a good day when he flies."
One final test
Michon said he initially targetting the end of September as the release date, but given how fast the eagle is progressing, that may be moved up.
First, though, the eagle will have to prove it can catch live prey.
"He's gotta do a live kill test," Michon said. "I've gotta get him a live animal. Of course, I'm not going to watch that."
"That's his final test," he said. "If he can't kill for himself, there's no use doing it."
And Michon is looking ahead to release day with a mix of emotions.
"It would be a little bit sad, but on the other side, the happiness is going to over shadow that by 100 miles," Michon said, laughing. "Trust me when I tell you that."
"I want him to be him."