Bald eagle rescued, rehabilitated, returned by Jennifer Amber, Sr. Technical Writer, Atlantic Test Ranges
April 27, 2010 – A female bald eagle, rescued from the Chesapeake Bay on April 15, was released at Patuxent River Naval Air Station on Tuesday afternoon by licensed master rehabilitator Mary Martin and electronics technician Mike Kerr. The eagle was rehabilitated in Delaware for injuries incurred during a mating flight, but was returned to southern Maryland for her release.
“Days like today make it worthwhile,” said Martin, who carries a Federal Fish and Wildlife Permit that allows her to handle and transport migratory birds. “When I picked this bird up, she was so exhausted from being in the water that she would not have survived if no one had intervened on her behalf.”
Kerr and Gary Fowler, both employees of the Optical Systems Branch at the Atlantic Test Ranges (5.2.0), were located at an off-site tracking station on the Chesapeake Bay covering flight tests when Kerr noticed splashing in the water. “I could see it was a pair of bald eagles, and I got the impression that they were tangled up in something,” Kerr said.
He called the Maryland State Police non-emergency line and was transferred to the Department of Natural Resources, who gave him the number for Mary Martin. After leaving a message on Martin’s voice mail, Kerr was able to contact Ron Glockner, Jr., Division Deputy of the Atlantic Targets and Marine Operations (5.3.3).
Glockner dispatched an ATMO Range Clearance Vessel to roughly two miles south of the Chesapeake Basin, and within an hour of the bird being spotted, engineering technician Dan Ford recovered the exhausted, waterlogged eagle from the water. The second eagle had managed to use its wings to swim to shore, and flew away when the boat approached.
Martin transported the bird to All Kinds Veterinary Hospital in Callaway, Md., where Dr. Adam Terry discovered that she suffered from multiple puncture wounds and abrasions, as well as a hematoma on the underside of her right wing, presumably from struggling with the male eagle in the water. After a liberal application of surgical glue to keep her wounds closed, the eagle was transported to the Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research facility in Newark, Del., for complete rehabilitation.
“The mating ritual consists of an elaborate flight display that includes locking talons and freefalling towards the ground, or in this case, the water. The birds are supposed to separate before they hit the surface,” said Martin. “We get one or two calls a year because a pair didn’t separate. It’s actually more likely in these cases that the birds are too injured to be rehabilitated; this bird is lucky to have been rescued from the water in time to save her life.”
While only taking two weeks from rescue to release, this bald eagle’s journey back to health included four-hour car trips to and from Tri-State Bird Rescue. “There are no flight pens large enough for birds of this size closer than Delaware,” said Martin. “The time spent in the car is stressful on the birds, and you can’t always get them back to their original location for release.”
Martin plans to build a flight pen on her property in California, Md., that meets or exceeds the requirements for conditioning bald eagles before they are released back into the wild. In 2006 SMECO donated labor and materials to erect retired utility poles, creating the framework for an L-shaped flight cage that will allow eagles to practice banking and making turns while flying. “Now we just need to raise the money to finish it,” said Martin. “We need to raise funds for both supplies and labor to get this pen built, and to give us the opportunity to rescue, rehabilitate and release large birds of prey right here in Southern Maryland.”
Mary Martin and her partner, Matthew Wilkes, have been licensed Maryland Master Rehabilitators, Maryland Rabies Vector Species Rehabilitators and Federal Migratory Bird Rehabilitators for over 20 years. Their organization, Back to the Wild Rescue & Rehab, is a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation center located in California, Md., whose primary mission is to rehabilitate and ultimately release into their natural habitat injured, orphaned and displaced wildlife. In 2008 they rescued 240 wild animals, 26 of which were raptors.
BaldEagleRescue_04.15.10.jpg – Photo by Becky Reppel
Atlantic Targets and Marine Operations employee, Dan Ford, rescues the injured bald eagle from the Chesapeake Bay on April 15.
7451_BaldEagle_04.27.2010.jpg – Photo by Jennifer Amber
A female bald eagle is released at Patuxent River on April 27, 13 days after being rescued from the Chesapeake Bay.
Bald Eagle after being rescued from the Chesapeake Bay
Bald Eagle successfully rehabilitated getting ready for release