Two Department of Natural Resources officers and a park ranger on Monday rescued an injured bald eagle that had been hit by a vehicle while attempting to fly.
Officers Cory Garver and Martin Keatzel got a call at 4 p.m. from a construction crew that a bald eagle feeding on a dead rabbit on Westbound I-68 near the Washington/Allegany county border had been hit while mid-take off.
It’s unknown what type of vehicle hit the bird or how fast it was moving, but the road speed limit is 70 mph, Garver said.
The eight-pound eagle had a mangled right wing and was unable to fly but was in a wooded area when Garver and Keatzel arrived at about 4:30 p.m. The bird was moving fine aside from its mangled right wing, which drooped down, but it wasn’t bloody or clearly hurt, officials said.
Garver called the Sarah Milbourne, a ranger at the Rocky Gap State Park who has been working with bald eagles for more than a decade, for help because the eagle was moving too quickly for them to capture alone.
The two officers cornered the bird toward Milbourne, who used a net to capture it, and then transported it the Owl Moon Raptor Center, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Boyds.
“Rarely do you get a call for an injured bald eagle,” Garver said. “I mean, if it is, it’s normally worst-case scenario.”
Aside from the droopy right wing, the bird did not show characteristics of other injuries or lead poisoning, which has become common among bald eagles, Milbourne said.
While bald eagles were removed from the list of federally endangered species in 2007, Milbourne said hunters often use lead shots to kill animals that eagles feed, often resulting in lead poisoning for the birds.
After providing any necessary emergency care, the Owl Moon Raptor Center typically transports injured birds to Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research in Newark, Delaware, where the birds will undergo further rehabilitation before training to fly again if they’re able to, Milbourne said. The process can take months.
She speculated that littered food drew the rabbit to the road, where it was likely killed by a vehicle and caught the eagle’s attention for feeding before the eagle was hit.
“We do find them on roadways,” she said. “It’s just an unfortunate place where other animals get hit, where we really try to push for people to try to understand how they impact these animals.”