An Aniak woman came across an injured bald eagle earlier this week. With help from her community in remote Southwest Alaska, she gave the bird a second chance and brought it to the care of veterinary experts.
Around 11 p.m. on Tuesday night, Amanda Hoeldt was riding a four-wheeler with a friend just outside the village of Aniak in Southwest Alaska, when she noticed something unusual in their path, a bald eagle.
“We saw this eagle up the bank, 10, 15 feet from us, so we stopped the four wheeler to take pictures and the it started running forward and in front of the four wheeler cause were stopped and it saw us and was staring at us,” Hoeldt said. ”And then its wing was dragging. So I jumped off the four wheeler and started following it because if his wing was dragging and he wasn’t flying away then I knew he was hurt so I wanted to help.”
At one point, the eagle jumped in the Kuskokwim River and began trying to swim away. She says she went after him.
“I didn’t really think about it. I just jumped off the four-wheeler and tried to get him,” Hoeldt said. ”And then when we had him wrapped in the blanket I was kind of in awe because when we had him wrapped in the blanket he was so much bigger than I thought he would be and he was so much heavier.”
But she held onto him the three miles back to town. When she got home, the eighteen-year-old University of Alaska Anchorage student, who is home for the summer, built a plywood pen for the bird with her friend. In the morning, her father contacted Alaska State Trooper, Sergeant Nick Zito who reached out to Bird TLC a raptor rehabilitation center in Anchorage. Officials there said they’d take the bird. RAVN airlines donated transport from Aniak.
In the meantime, the eagle had escaped from the makeshift pen. Hoeldt recaptured the bird, and after much hissing, she says she put him into a kennel donated by a local dog rescue organization, Canine Comfort. With the eagle secured, trooper Zito put the bird onto the afternoon flight, which brought it to Guy Runco with Bird TLC in Anchorage.
“Well the eagle looks bright alert and responsive. It is up and eating. It does have a droopy left wing. I’m not sure the extent of the injury to its left wing but our volunteer veterinarian will be able to figure that out,” said Runco.
Hoeldt says she sent a note along with the eagle, that she and her friend named, ‘Eugene’.
“I wrote a little note on the dog crate asking them to please take care of Eugene the Eagle and I left my number on it, but I realize it’s probably pretty difficult when they run a whole recovery center to keep track of just one bird and to keep in touch with him,” Hoeldt said. “It would be really cool to see if he makes a full recovery or if the just keep him someplace like a wildlife park or if they even try to fly him all the way back out here or try to move him somewhere else.”
Runco says if all goes well, the eagle will be treated and returned to the wild.