By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
TAMAQUA — Experts are cautiously optimistic for a young, female bald eagle discovered with a broken wing a week ago near the railroad tracks along Route 147 south of Sunbury during a hazardous materials cleanup.
Surgery done Monday on the immature female “went very well,” said Susan Gallagher, chief naturalist and licensed wildlife rehabilitator with the Carbon County Environmental Education Center near Summit Hill.
“She just came through surgery, and she has a pin in her wing,” Gallagher said. “The broken bone lined up perfectly, she has good circulation. There is a good possibility this will heal properly.”
An examination found the eagle had been injured as much as a week earlier, but it’s not known how, Gallagher said. The eagle wasn’t shot, she said, noting that tests for that were negative.
“We’re shocked she did as well as she did” in surgery, Gallagher said. “There was some muscle damage because she was injured so long. ... Her tail feathers were very tattered, and we tend to see that in birds that have been on the ground a while.”
William Williams, an information and education supervisor with the northeast regional office of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said the immature bald eagle — she doesn’t have her adult plumage yet and may be a year or two old — was reported on the ground by a northbound train engineer Feb. 4.
Mike Eisenhower, of Norfolk Southern Railway, who was at the scene of a hazardous materials cleanup following a tanker truck accident, took the call and contacted the Game Commission, Williams said.
Eisenhower and Jason Kelley, Northumberland County wildlife conservation officer, found the bird perched on a branch about five feet above the Susquehanna River, its right wing drooping and twisted. The men used a snare poll to catch the eagle and bring her to ground level.
The eagle eventually was taken to Carbon County and later to veterinarian Dr. Frank Bostick, of the St. Francis Animal Hospital in Tamaqua, who is donating his services to treat her, Gallagher said.
The eagle had been in critical condition before surgery, Williams said. She had lost a lot of weight and was dehydrated.
The eagle now is receiving fluids and is eating well on her own, Gallagher said. She is also on antibiotics for an infection.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners recently removed the bald eagle from the state’s threatened species list and upgraded the bird to “protected” status. Eagles are still guarded by the federal Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act, which combats trafficking in wildlife.
The next eight weeks will be critical for the bald eagle’s future. “We will see if there will be enough muscles to use the wing so she is releasable,” Gallagher said.
“After about a month, we’ll have a better idea how she holds that wing.”
If the eagle cannot fly or be returned to wild, another option for her would be in education programs, Gallagher said. That would be done with permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which grants a specific eagle exhibit permit. Gallagher said since 2001, a bald eagle and golden eagle have called the Carbon County center home for education purposes.
Gallagher commended the Game Commission and others for their efforts. “They really did a nice job, doing everything they could for the bird.
“She’s a very young bird, she’s eating very well and adjusting to captivity very well, she’s not heavily stressed,” Gallagher said. “If she’s releasable, we’d like to send her out again to the wild.”