Eaglet making progress at CROW
E8, one of a two-eaglet brood whose doings are being watched world-wide via the popular Southwest Florida Eagle cam, is doing better at CROW today, where it is being treated for an injured foot.
An offspring of Harriet, the popular eagle matriarch that has been nesting at Dick Pritchett Real Estate Property on Bayshore Road, E8 was rescued and brought to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife Tuesday after it was noticed that something was wrapped around its foot.
When CROW Hospital Director Dr. Heather Barron arrived at the North Fort Myers location Tuesday, she noticed that E8 was entangled in a black manmade fiber, a monofilament line.
With permission already secured from U.S. Fish & Wildlife and the Florida Fish & Wildlife, Barron recovered the days-old eaglet so its swollen limb could be treated.
“They (the agencies) were both very responsive and immediately went about getting us permission that would allow us to go into the nest,” she said. “Because it was a manmade fiber, that is why we were allowed to intervene.”
Barron believes E8 had the line wrapped around its foot for no more than 24 hours.
“I think he is very lucky that people out there were paying attention and immediately thought something was wrong and they alerted us right away,” she said.
CROW, LCEC and a local MasTec contractor came together Tuesday and secured a bucket truck, so the eaglet could be rescued from its nest atop a tall pine.
“I actually had to cut him free,” Barron said of E8. “He was actually tethered to the nest and was unable to move more than a couple of inches. I cut him free and then removed the line from his leg and then immediately tried to get circulation reestablished.”
Before the rescue took place, she said she saw E8’s father, who was very distressed.
“You could hear his distressed calling, but luckily he was not super aggressive,” Barron said. “Sometimes they are extremely aggressive and will come after you. You always have to have two people in the bucket. One who is sort of watching where the parents are at all times and one to deal with whatever the problem is. In this case we were lucky because I think he is a younger male and he was not super aggressive.”
The male parent, M15, is Harriet’s new mate. Ozzie, her year’s long nestmate, died last year from injuries suffered in a fight with M15 over territory after Ozzie was returned home following treatment at CROW. Officials believe Ozzie had been struck by a car, causing a broken bone that needed treatment and rehabilitation. Ozzie was returned to CROW a second time after he was found in barbed wire but a blood infection had set in and, despite aggressive treatment, he died.
Barron said the diagnostics done at CROW Tuesday revealed that the eaglet did not have a broken leg from the line; however there was significant soft tissue swelling. She said with that loss of circulation to his extremities, some deficits were noticed, such as the eaglet does not currently know where his toes are.
Wednesday morning the eaglet received physical therapy from two of CROW’s feeders to help reestablish circulation to his foot.
“Without two fully functional feet, he would not be considered a releasable animal that could survive in the wild,” Barron said. “But, right now we are very encouraged that the swelling has decreased significantly over what it was yesterday. We hope in time the nerves will function properly again as well.”
The number of days E8 will remain at CROW is all up to him.
“As soon as he seems to know where his toes are I think we are going to be in pretty good shape,” Barron said. “Luckily the damage to the skin itself was very minor and we would not have to do anything more than just removing the line. We haven’t had to do any major surgeries to that leg. That is all really positive signs. The other positive sign is that he still has circulation to all of his toe nails, so we can see they are still healthy.”
E8 is currently receiving an assortment of food by CROW staff while they are wearing masks. Barron said it is important the eaglet cannot see that humans are feeding him.
“We do not want him imprinted on, or persuaded to humans in any way,” she explained. “He’s a wild animal and we want him to remain afraid of humans and think we are bad people and that is not where food comes from.”
If E8 remains at CROW for more than a couple of days, staff will use a puppet to feed him, again so he cannot see that humans are feeding him.
Barron said upon examination, they immediately noticed that E8 is very undersized for his age, which is not unusual for a second chick. She said the first chick born tends to get the majority of the groceries.
Unfortunately, its size was further comprised by having its foot caught in the line and not being able to move around the nest freely. E8, although dehydrated when arriving at CROW did have food in his crop, meaning its parents were still feeding him.
Andrew Pritchett, who oversees the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam located on the Dick Pritchett Real Estate Property, said the eaglet got its foot caught in the nesting material sometime on Monday. As time went on and the situation didn’t resolve itself, it was determined that something had to be done.
“Over the past day the foot had become swollen and it was determined that action needed to be taken,” Pritchett said. “A permitted wildlife rehabilitation center has to approve the intervention along with the United State Fish & Wildlife Service and FWC.”
The intervention happened shortly after noontime at the Pritchett farm. During the actual rescue, the Pritchett eagle cam was shut off, but came back on once completed.
Also, all ground visitors were asked to leave the area during the rescue attempt. This was for the safety of everyone, including the eagles, officials said.
The rescue went smoothly.
The situation was the talk of the eagle-watchers’ world. The Pritchett site was abuzz with activity as more than 2,000 visitors filled the chat room in hopes of getting updates.
Another website said E8 was “being very vocal.” During feeding, E8 was knocked around by its sibling, E7, during feeding, but got its fill once E7 was full.
If everything is fine, E8 will be placed back in the nest as soon as possible. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. Pritchett said he has never witnessed it.
As far as how fishing line got up there perhaps, Pritchett said, since the eagles bring fish to the nest, it may have been what the fish swallowed before the eagles caught it.
“They bring different wildlife and roadkill and any one thing had some kind of twine inside them,” Pritchett said. “We haven’t noticed line in the nest. The fact this happened is new to us.”
Anyone who would like to make a donation to the Ozzie Memorial Fund and help CROW continue to help critically injured wildlife, can do so at crowclinic.org/support-us/ozzie-memorial-fund/
The 24/7 Southwest Florida Eagel cam may be found at dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html
Chuck Ballaro contributed to this article.