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Bald Eagle in Mating Crash May Get to Go Outside

Alaska bird rescuer Cindy Palmatier won’t know for a month if the eagle that plunged into the snow while clutching her mate will ever fly again. Cindy Palmatier, director of avian care at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage, says the eagle did get bandages off one wing and may get to go outside Wednesday or Thursday.

The eagle pair became national news after they locked talons in their courtship dance on Easter morning and didn’t let go in time. Normally they swing each other around, then break free. This time, at least one of them miscalculated and they crashed into the snow in Valdez. The male died on impact. Bob Benda, a biology professor, was on of the first on the scene and thought the female was dead, too, then noticed she was breathing.

Benda kept the bird overnight in a crate and again thought she died, the Valdez Star reports. In the morning he was happy to see her alive and got her flown to Anchorage.

I had wondered if the eagle might be pregnant, but Palmatier doesn’t think so. The aerial spiral is normally a prelude to mating, she says. “I’ve never had an eagle lay an egg,” she says. “If animals are stress they tend to just reabsorb the pregnancy,” she said. And they treat 800 birds a year, 50 of which are eagles, she’s had plenty of chances to see egg laying if it weren’t so unlikely with these distressed birds.

Palmatier, who’s also a vet tech, says the eagles they get fall into three categories: toxins (often from eating at the garbage dump), starvation (especially this time of year, before the salmon run) and trauma. Trauma can include anything from fighting with each other to getting hit by cars. They’re currently getting a lot of emaciated patients because the winter was mild for moose and caribou, so there are few carcasses around to eat. Once again, our national bird becomes a lot less majestic once we learn the details of its lifestyle.

If the eagle is lucky, she’ll recover from her head trauma and wing injury and get released in Valdez. If not, she’ll become a permanent resident somewhere, if not the center.

The Bird Treatment and Learning Center has 30 birds that do educational displays for the public, but only four live at the center. The rest are farmed out to qualified volunteers who have built an enormous cage–often the size of a house. Interestingly, Palmatier says the state of Alaska doesn’t let people rehab mammals–aside from a handful of big game babies that may go to the zoo.


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