BURNT ISLANDS, N.L.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Derrick Hatcher was taking a drive on Salmon Road by Burnt Islands River
earlier this month when he noticed something unexpected partially hidden under the alders by the side of the road. He stopped his truck to investigate. It was a bald eagle.
“The first thought I had was that’s pretty odd to see an eagle by the side of the road not even moving,” Hatcher recalled. “If he was OK, if he could fly, he would have took off after being so close to the truck.
“So I said to myself, he’s obviously sick or caught in something or injured. I got out of the truck and he got kind of savage with me. I couldn’t get too close to him, so I took off my old jacket, and threw it over him so I could get a closer look at him and see if anything was hurting him.”
Hatcher said the predatory bird was not easy to capture.
“After four or five attempts I got him covered in a jacket,” Hatcher explained. “Every time I got the jacket on him, he used to open his wings and bat it off him. He’s so powerful — I had a bit of a fight with him.”
Once he managed to subdue the eagle, Hatcher assessed him.
“I got on top of him, carefully so I wouldn’t damage anything, break any of his wings or anything,” Hatcher said. “I looked at his legs, his behind, his stomach and his head and there was no blood on him, there was no damage. He looked like a good looking bird except for his feet. One of his feet was all crumped up, his talons.”
Hatcher wasn’t prepared for a rescue but did the best with what he had.
“I didn’t have a cage, but I have a tunnel cover on the back of the truck,” he explained. “I got him in the back of the truck and closed the tailgate on him and I brought him home and showed my father.”
“I said, ‘Come and look in the back of the truck,’ and he (Hatcher’s dad) said, ‘God knows, what have you got in there this time?’ So he came and had a look and opened up the tailgate and he couldn’t believe what he seen. He (Hatcher’s dad) said, ‘Yes, there’s obviously something wrong with him. You don’t get next to an eagle like that so easy.’”
Hatcher and his father called the RCMP for some advice and the RCMP gave them a number for a Wildlife Conservation Officer in St. Georges.
“The next day he (Conservation Officer) came with a dog kennel in the back of his truck,” Hatcher recalled.
The Conservation Officer called Hatcher the day after he picked up the bird to let him know that the eagle is a three-five year old male and that, “One of his talons on his feet was all out of whack,” Hatcher said. “Buddy said they looked like they were squat or something. It could have been a loose rock in a cliff that squat him or it could have broke them.
“An eagle needs two of their legs to get flight, to push off, so he only had one leg and he couldn’t get up. He couldn’t fly.”
Hatcher added that, “They are going to do some rehabilitation (on the bird’s talons) and take him to Salmonier Nature Park and release him later on.”
When asked what it feels like to save the eagle, Hatcher said, “It was a good feeling knowing that you are helping out something that needed help. He (the eagle) couldn’t tell you what was wrong.”
Hatcher knows that the story might have ended far worse had he not taken action to save the bird.
“It turned out lucky because on that road there’s a lot of kids and people on quads and dirt bikes,” Hatcher explained. “Somebody could have ran him over or done something bad to him.”
Eagles used to be endangered in North America but have been off the U.S. Endangered and Threatened Species Act since 2007.
Hatcher believes the eagles are important players in the ecosystem.
“They clean a lot of old stuff up along our coast, old fish carcasses,” Hatcher said. “They are good to have around. They are beautiful too. They are nice to see, for future generations to come out and see.”
John Tompkins, director of Communications for the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources confirmed the status of the eagle Hatcher saved with this statement:
“The bald eagle rescued from Burnt Islands on Thursday, Aug. 9 was assessed by a Department of Fisheries and Land Resources veterinarian and transported to Salmonier Nature Park for rehabilitation and release, if possible. The eagle had a problem with its leg and was unable to perch on anything when it wasn’t in flight. The eagle is doing well and continues to be closely monitored by departmental veterinarians.”