Rescue, recovery, release of bald eagle leaves rescuer feeling 'honoured'

It was an experience that Mark Dallyn will probably never have again, and that's exactly how he wants it. He released a bald eagle back into the wild after helping it recover from poison.

Male bald eagle found poisoned and near death, near Meadow Lake, Sask.

Eagle Release near Meadow Lake, Sask.


5 years ago
Bald Eagle released back to the wild near Meadow Lake Saskatchewan March 19, 2016 1:51

It was an experience that Mark Dallyn will probably never have again, and that's exactly how he wants it. Just a few weeks ago, he released a bald eagle back into the wild after helping it recover from being exposed to poison.

"For me and my volunteers, it's the payment for our work. It's quite the payment. It's priceless," he said. 

Dallyn works as a volunteer with Healing Haven Wildlife Rescue, near Meadow Lake, Sask. In November, he and his colleagues found the eagle near death. 

"He just flat out couldn't eat or speak. He couldn't use his legs — couldn't even stand up, and he was vomiting quite a lot," he said. "I honestly couldn't believe how out of it he was — just almost non-responsive and that was the first night." 

Dallyn said that toxicologists in Saskatoon couldn't quite pinpoint the exact poison used against the bald eagle, but they did in fact confirm the bird was poisoned. 

"In the exact same location, another bald eagle was found down and actually didn't make it. And so the conservation officer sent her through for toxicology in Saskatoon," he explained. 

Based on his experience, Dallyn said there's a number of ways the bird could've been poisoned, but it's likely that it started with landowners looking to get rid of what they view was pests.

Recovery process and pushing through

A still frame of the video shot during the eagle's release, near Meadow Lake, Sask. (Paradise Pictures & Sound)
The first step was flushing out the bird's system with a lot of antibiotics, pain medications and fluids, Dallyn said. The next step was force-feeding him, which lasted for several weeks. 

Despite the forced-feeding, Dallyn said the eagle seemed to know and understand that it was getting help from his care-givers. "They're pretty upset and that sort of thing. But finally they start to see you're helping them and making them feel better."

Halfway into treatments, it got rough: "He just got really down and wouldn't do anything; and we got scared again. We pushed through and had to force feed him ... we moved him outside where he would be feeling more comfortable. And he made a turn again and came back."

Release and a 'thank you' fly-over

A still frame of Mark Dallyn releasing a recovered bald eagle near Meadow Lake, Sask. (Paradise Pictures & Sound)

After months of rehab work and recovery, the day came, on March 19, for Dallyn and his colleagues to release the bird back into the wild. Dallyn was the one holding and releasing the eagle. 

"It's a feeling I don't think I can really describe. It's probably the best feeling int the world," he said. "It fells like an honour to hold a bird like that and give him his freedom back."

He called the experience an incredible feeling. "You know you did good," said Dallyn.

The special day had a small surprise in store for Dallyn and the others. The bird flew off, and then came back to the group and did about five or six circular fly-overs above the group. 

"He was just like twirling and turning, and just showing off for everybody. It was absolutely incredible. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house," Dallyn said.

"He was definitely thanking us for our work ... He was in trouble and he's back home, and after all the struggle he got to go back home. And it was really good."

After he was done showing off, another bald eagle came and joined him. They circled together a few times and then flew off, out of sight.

"I would say not to give up easily is a lesson I learned there," said Dallyn. "But what I'll remember the most is that release. This was a once in a lifetime release."

With files from CBC's Saskatchewan Weekend