Eagle deaths avoidable

  • Jul. 8, 2015 11:00 a.m.

By Stacey MarpleHaida Gwaii ObserverThe bald eagle believed to have clipped some power lines before careening into a house June 1 in Masset has returned home. After spending three weeks in the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society centre in Delta, the mature male eagle has now fully healed. He has been banded with an identifying tag and released back into the wild. The eagle had flown into a residence near the dock in Masset. “There is no one on-island who is qualified to care for these animals,” said Leila Riddall, the volunteer, people contact about injured eagles and birds on Haida Gwaii. She added that the injured birds have to be under proper care to extend the likelihood of survival. She said she is relieved to have the eagle home, safe and sound, but the celebration was cut short when another another injured eagle was found and sent off to the OWL centre. “This is a serious issue,” Ms. Riddall said. “Close to 20 birds have been sent down to the OWL centre this year.”She is now appealing for public assistance on the issue, as these injuries are in large part caused by the human habit of throwing fish and other food scraps on the shore to attract eagles for photographing.Ms. Riddall and other conservation groups are now speaking out strongly of the dangers of feeding eagles, of which there are plenty. In some cases the birds will fight over food, not paying attention to their surroundings, and unintentionally fly into power lines, windows and other obstacles. Other hazards of feeding the eagles are that the juveniles don’t learn how to hunt for themselves and may gain too much weight to fly properly. When an eagle flies into power lines or runs prey into the lines they can receive a powerful shock. The survival rate for eagle electrocution is extremely low. Just five per cent will survive a run-in with power lines. Additionally, Ms. Riddall said, people and lodge employees sometimes throw fish waste on the beach without ensuring the food waste is safe for the birds to eat. “Some of the fish still have hooks in them, or [the meat] is rancid,” Ms. Riddall said. “Rancid food is just as bad for eagles as it is for us.”The recent injured eagle’s fate is unknown. Its likelyhood of survival will be assessed when it arrives at the ICU of O.W.L. It is unknown if it will be as lucky as the male eagle who has now come home fully recoved.Pacific Coastal Airlines has a standing agreement to transport the eagles from Haida Gwaii to the OWL centre in Delta free of charge. Most of the injured eagles found on Haida Gwaii are sent to the O.W.L facility in Delta.

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