After months of rehab, a bald eagle captured out by Fort Steele was able to spread her wings and return to the wilderness.
Back in September, a local couple out for a walk on the west side of the Kootenay River noticed the eagle after their dog took off after it. Now, after rehabbing since September down in the Lower Mainland, the eagle was flown back up to Cranbrook and released close to where it was captured.
Rebekah Quennell and Mike Weitzel captured the bird of prey during a walk out along the west side of the Kootenay River in late September, after spending a couple hours chasing it from both sides of the riverbank.
““We were just hanging out on the beach and noticed the dog was going after something out on a log in the river and we went over there and he was trying to get an eagle,” Weitzel said. “We couldn’t figure out why the eagle wasn’t flying away because it was jumping in the water to get away from the dog.”
They eventually split up to cover both sides, as the eagle kept swimming across back and forth a few times, unable to fly away because of its injured wing.
Weitzel was able to get Sioux Browning, a volunteer with O.W.L. (Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society) on the phone, who came out with a cage and some equipment to capture it.
After criss-crossing the river a few times, Weitzel said the eagle was getting tired and managed to get caught in some driftwood on the beach, which allowed him to approach it with a heavy towel.
Weitzel circled out into the river and headed towards the eagle so that if it ran, it would be away from the water, while Quennell approached from a different direction.
With the eagle caught up in the driftwood, Weitzel was able to get the towel over her head and wings and bear-hugged it before running up the beach to the cage—all without a scratch from the beak or razor-sharp talons.
From there, Browning got the eagle onto a Pacific Coastal Airlines flight the next day—a service they provide to O.W.L for free—where it was shipped to a rehabilitation facility in Delta.
“She had an injured wing and they were able to fix it surgically,” Browning said. “Then they put her into rehab, basically, so they have a series of increasingly larger flight cages and they just basically retrain her in how to fly.”
On Friday, Browning and volunteers, along with Quennell and Weitzel headed back out to the Kootenay River after the fully-rehabbed eagle was flown back to Cranbrook.
Out beside the Wildhorse River tributary, the two who had captured the raptor so many months ago, opened the door to the cage to set her free again.
After a few tentative steps, the eagle left the cage and immediately spread her wings to take flight, disappearing from view after entering the forest.
Browning heaped praise on the help from Quennell and Weitzel for their help in capturing the eagle.
“This is easily the toughest rescues I’ve done so far and I couldn’t have done it without these guys, for sure,” Browning said. “They were 100 per cent.”