New home for an injured bald eagle

Posted
Saturday June 1, 2013

MARLBORO -- After DNA testing, a bald eagle currently being housed at the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum was identified as a female on Wednesday.

Before the eagle officially arrived at Hogback Mountain, there was a lot of preparation for its arrival.

"Last year, there was a program at the Marlboro Elementary School and one of the kids asked if we had a bald eagle. Kind of jokingly, I said, ‘No, we don't have any place for it to live.' And that motivated the kids to do a fundraiser," said Museum Assistant Director Michael Clough. "At the time, it was the first and second graders. They raised close to $500, which was nowhere near enough but it was enough to motivate us to get serious about it."

The funding went toward building a habitat, where a bald eagle could live in comfortable conditions.

Throughout the year, there were more fundraising efforts with assistance from the Vermont Community Foundation, the Deerfield Valley Rotary Club and the Marlboro Alliance. The museum's director Ed Metcalfe also helped with funding the project.

Last summer, a habitat was constructed for the possible relocation of a bald eagle.

In order to gain a permit for a bald eagle through the United States Fish and Wildlife Services, everything must be in place prior to submitting an application for a permit.

"The enclosure needs to be built and the eagle must be ready to go to the airport," said Clough. "Then we could apply."

The bald eagle that the museum received as a guest has permanent wing injury and is unable to fly. She was shipped from a rehabilitation facility in Wyoming, which is known as the Ironside Bird Rescue.

She was placed in the constructed habitat outside the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum on May 16. The students who initially began fundraising efforts for the eagle were the first visitors who saw the bird. She is currently on display at the museum.

In cases like this, birds of prey are mostly hurt by cars. Roads tend to be ideal locations for eagles to hunt. Rodents are attracted to roads with mowed grass and litter tossed out of moving cars. Around 1 million animals a day are hit by cars in the United States.

"Unfortunately, it's a permanent injury," said Clough. "She wouldn't survive in the wild."

Directors at the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum hope to use this bald eagle primarily for educational programs. It is only one of three captive bald eagles in the state and may end up being the only captive eagle that will travel in Vermont.

Clough told the Reformer that the possibility of the bird being featured in education programs is looking optimistic. The programs would include visits to all types of schools, libraries and senior facilities.

This bird is considered of a medium size out west, Clough said. She weighs about 10 pounds.

"The females are usually bigger," he added. "The feet for the size of the bird are huge and the beak is heavy."

Brattleboro's Vermont and New Hampshire Vet Clinic Veterinarian Ron Svec suggested the DNA test. Employees at the Ironside Bird Rescue had thought the eagle was male but tests confirmed she was a female.

Right now, the bird is in the beginning stages of training for potential education programs and travels.

"I'm going in with her a few times a day," said Clough. "That's when the food is there. In the beginning, she wasn't going to eat with a scary person in there. That's step one. Now I get closer then fairly close and she'll take food from my hand. It's not going to be long until she stands on the glove."

Once the bird stands on his glove, Clough said he will begin to get the bald eagle used to various settings.

The training process is slow because bald eagles have been known to hurt humans if stressed too much. Clough said there haven't been any problems with this particular bird.

At the Ironside Bird Rescue facility, the bald eagle showed no inclination towards biting humans, which isn't always typical. That beak of hers, Clough pointed out, is used for tearing fish apart to eat.

"I think she's going to be great," he said. "She's been really good so far."

The fences that enclose the bird for now will eventually be replaced with windows. The museum's directors are constantly looking at ways to upgrade the living animals' habitats.

Talking to the rehabilitators at Ironside Bird Rescue, Clough had an approximate idea for where the perches for the eagle might go. But after the bird spent some time in its new habitat, Clough has some changes he wants to implement to improve overall living conditions for the bald eagle.

The Southern Vermont Natural History Museum will act as a resting home for the bald eagle. It is a place where other non-releaseable animals live and are showcased. The list includes owls and turtles as well as several other birds.

For more information, visit vermontmuseum.org or search Southern Vermont Natural History Museum on Facebook.com.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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