'Lucky' Alaskan research eagle found starving, unable to fly in Kamloops, B.C.

A golden eagle found starving in Kamloops, B.C. is taken to a rehabilitation centre where it was found to be part of a large study out of Alaska.

Unusual for a dying eagle to be found in an urban area, biologist says

A young golden eagle was found in Kamloops, B.C., Dec. 29, starving and unable to fly. (Adrienne Clay)

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.

A GPS tracker found on the bird's back is part of an Alaskan study of golden eagles. (Adrienne Clay)

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.

The animal care team at the Fawcett Family Wildlife Health Centre in Kamloops, B.C. will work to help the eagle regain its strength and fly again. (Adrienne Clay)

"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.

'Pretty serendipitous'

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.

About the Author

Courtney Dickson

Broadcast and Digital Journalist

Courtney Dickson is a journalist working in Kamloops, B.C. Email her at courtney.dickson@cbc.ca with story tips.