Paramedics, public come together in effort to save eagle

Instincts and the basic need to ease suffering kicked in on a back road in eastern P.E.I. as paramedics and the public came together to try and save an injured eagle.

Eagle was too injured to be saved, said AVC

The eagle was found badly injured. (Island EMS/Facebook)

Instincts and the basic need to ease suffering kicked in on a back road in eastern P.E.I. as paramedics and the public came together to try and save an injured eagle.  

Gineen Nicholls was the first person to find the injured bird. She was on her way home from working in Montague when she saw a brown feathered heap in the middle of the Union road. The route is a popular shortcut to get to and from the community.

Island EMS paramedics used an ambulance to help protect this injured eagle on the Union Rd. (Gineen Nicholls)

"I thought if I can block him with my vehicle so that someone doesn't run over him," said Nicholls. 

"Then when I did that and put on my four way flashers, and I sat and said oh no, now what am I gonna do?"    

As Nicholls waited Melissa MacLean and Margaret Lister happened to be using the same shortcut, only to get to their shift with Island EMS. MacLean pulled the ambulance to the side of the road and instinct kicked in as she walked toward the injured bird of prey.

"I was like okay that leg is angular and limp, so we probably have a broken leg. And that wing, good movement, good extension that might not be too bad," MacLean, an advanced care paramedic, told CBC News.

"But I'm thinking it's an eagle, what do I know about an eagle?"

Keeping the eagle and public safe

MacLean knew enough to try and keep everyone safe, after making a call to dispatch to say the ambulance would be delayed getting to Montague. 

"We're going to try and help the eagle," she told her dispatcher. "But also have to stay because if we don't help him there may be a car accident."

Paramedic Margaret Lister pulls the injured eagle to safety. (Island EMS/Facebook)

She began by moving people away from the middle of the road, and then was faced with trying to move the injured eagle.    

"He let us get fairly close to him. He didn't have to. He was large, he could have defended himself easily against us."

The first attempt to put the eagle on a backboard and place him in the ambulance ended when the eagle was spooked by a passing car. It reared up and extended its 1.5 metre wing span.

'We did just what we would for a human'

A motorist offered a laundry basket to cradle the animal. MacLean swaddled it in blankets, scooped it into the basket and Lister got it calmed down.  

"It was a tough decision to figure out what to do. We just did what we would for a human. We got him warm and dry and out of the way of harm."  

A local animal hospital arrived to pick up the injured eagle. It was then transported to the Atlantic Veterinary College where it was determined the injures to the leg and foot of the animal were extensive and it had to be euthanized. 

"They suddenly became animal EMS attendants as well," said Nicholls of the work of the paramedics. Island EMS also took time to praise the work of Lister and MacLean for helping the animal in distress.