Friday, March 5, 2010

A Magnificant Eagle downed by man's neglect to care

This story by Annette King Tucker touched me deeply. I hope it reaches you in the same manner as I. The next time I am trying to rid my home of tree rats,  I will be more cautious! Will you?

What an honor it was on Saturday November 7th to be called upon by State authorities to care for one of our Nation's greatest treasures. This majestic bird was not only impressive to look at, but his presence actually seemed to change the climate in our wildlife clinic. It became "sacred ground" for awhile, and I could not have been more humbled to have been handed such a trust. I have never touched an Eagle, and here I was examining his massive body, running my fingers along his wing bones checking for breaks, opening the impressive beak looking for evidence of problems. I was shaking. The pressure to save his life was tangible, and the responsibility was overwhelming.

After finding no physical injuries, I clearly felt this eagle was fighting an internal battle. His breathing was slightly labored and he was somewhat thin, but in relatively good flesh. The thought of a poisoning came to mind, and struck a familiar chord of fear in me. Animals who ingest other animals dying from rodent poison fall victim to the same fate, but a far slower death would come. It would be too late to save this eagle if that were the case. From the tattered state of his tail, he had been on the ground for a few days at least. I had hope that I was wrong and this was a lung infection and nothing more.

"Spirit" as we called him, began to recover immediately. Although he was rejecting food, we continued to treat him for an infection and for a crop that had clearly shut down and had become rancid. We gave him some medication, and the listless bird turned around for us overnight. The treatments were working, and he began standing strong with his wings tucked away properly. He began to drink water on his own and was vocalizing from time to time. We gave him privacy and avoided handling him except for necessary cage changing. He was extremely cooperative with me for all of his treatments. I kept him confined so that I could medicate him quickly and avoid undue stress. He was an ideal patient, until yesterday.

Although he had passed all inspections for progress yesterday morning, by afternoon something had gone horribly wrong. Spirit was suddenly gasping for breath, and he was distressed. We didn't hesitate. We immediately took him to our veterinarian, Doctor Lesleigh Cash of Hooves Paws and Claws in Claremore.

Life support was given to no avail. His decline was sudden and unstoppable as his body began to shut down. Spirit had been showing the tell tale signs of rodent poisoning and was treated for such, but his progress had given us hope for a miracle. This condition is always fatal for wildlife as we do not get them until the toxins are well absorbed and the animals are unable to avoid being captured. People who use poison for rodents do not realize that they do not die immediately. They are likely to wander aimlessly for hours, becoming easy prey to hungry wildlife and domestic pets. I have cared for dozens of poisoned wild animals in my 14 years as a wildlife care specialist. I've saved none of them.

Last night I brought our beautiful bird back to my wildlife clinic, his empty cage standing before me, his lifeless body in my arms. Ceremoniously, I wrapped him in an American flag and lay my head on him with tremendous pain and regret. I thanked him for allowing me the hope of his recovery, and for fighting with us, as hard as we did, even though recovery was impossible. I apologized to him for the tragedy of his death, and the cruel contribution from my own species to his suffering. What an incredible animal! What Spirit! He will be picked up by a Federal wildlife agent soon and handed over to a Native American eagle feather program who will use his feathers with great respect and honor.

We at Wild Heart Ranch dedicate our lives to improve the lives of thousands of our original Americans, the wildlife with whom we share space. We feel this is part of our responsibility as the dominate species, to assist those creatures who are helpless against the infringement of people into their lives, and without care when tragedy finds them. We ask that out of respect for those who have no voice, that the use of poisons be rethought when dealing with rodents. There are other ways to cope that create no other victims. I would have rather never touched an American Eagle, than to have had one die in my arms yesterday. This could have been avoided, and I feel it is our duty to change our ways to avoid such a needless and devastating loss.

We thought of our soldiers away from home in the bold and revered Spirit of an eagle that for a few brief days, touched the honored few who shared space with him. God speed. We are forever changed. We wish we could have released him to honor you all.

As I look for ways to expand our facility to provide more suitable and substantial means to care for these animals, I will take with me each day the motivation I felt to save just one; the eagle that didn't fly. He represents all of them to me, as well as all of us. It is time for change, and it is time to do more for others and to be better Americans, even if it just means opting for mouse traps instead of bait.

A few photos were taken at the few times we handled Spirit. They are now my treasures. I wanted to share his majesty and his story. I couldn't allow him to go without leaving something behind for us to learn.

God Bless.
Annette King Tucker Wild Heart Ranch Wildlife Rescue
www.wildheartranch.org

1 comment:

Emily said...

That is an amazing picture! I didn't know if it was even a real Eagle. I would have loved to see have him in person and hate hearing of his untimely death. :(