Original article posted October 26, 2017 in the Toledo Blade - Alexandra Mester

WHITEHOUSE — Staff at Nature's Nursery Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation Education have their hands full with a large, feisty bald eagle.

“She gets bitey,” said Jackie Rivas, operations coordinator, as she held the eagle Wednesday before deftly dodging the angry female’s wicked beak.

The mature eagle from the Bowling Green area was found by a resident Oct. 14 and pulled from the North Branch Portage River. She arrived at the rehab center, located south of Whitehouse, with a puncture wound to her right chest and an injured left wing.

“Usually, when you can catch an eagle, it’s bad,” Steve Kiessling, executive director, said.

X-rays did not show any fractures or bullet fragments, so how the bird sustained her injuries is unknown. She has an old injury to her right eye so it’s possible she flew into something, or she may have gotten into a fight with another eagle.

Feisty and ready to eat

Feisty and ready to eat

“With their populations coming back up, we get more in that have territorial injuries,” said Ms. Rivas, who works one day a week at Nature’s Nursery.

Her chest wound did have maggots in it, but it appeared to be a new injury.

“The maggots were tiny, so it had to have been a fresh wound. They hadn’t had time to grow,” Nicole Frederick, volunteer coordinator, said. “She was very strong when she came to us. She fights tooth and nail when she’s being restrained.”

While her attitude has made caring for her difficult, it’s a good sign she’s recovering well. The chest wound quickly scabbed over after a good cleaning, so the unknown wing issue is the main concern.

“We’re treating it like a soft-tissue injury,” Ms. Rivas said.

The eagle is receiving an antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory, and an expensive antifungal medication to prevent her from developing a common stress-related infection in birds.

“It takes a lot of extra staff time to handle her, and all the extra medication she’s on adds up,” Mr. Kiessling said.

The eagle also needs large meals. Local businesses and residents have donated fish in addition to the rats the organization already gets.

“We offered her rats at first but she didn’t eat for two days,” Ms. Frederick said. “Her weight was really good so we didn’t worry, and then we got some fish and she started eating.”

The center prefers whole, fresh fish for better nutritional value for the eagle. The bird tends to go for the heads of both fish and rats first.

The center expects to have the eagle for at least a few more weeks. She will soon be moved to an outdoor enclosure where staff will continue to watch her injured wing. Then, they hope, she can be moved into a flight cage to prepare for eventual release.

“Being on cage rest and not flying means they lose flight muscle, so they’ve got to build all that back up again,” Ms. Rivas said.

The eagle is one of 2,764 animals the center has taken in this year as of Tuesday, just 25 away from breaking the annual record.

“And we still have two months left,” Mr. Kiessling said. “You just never know.”

Nature's Nursery can be reached at 419-877-0060. Donations may be made at natures-nursery.org, or by sending a check to P.O. Box 2395, Whitehouse, OH, 43571.

Contact Alexandra Mester: amester@theblade.com, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.