What started as a routine afternoon preparing a field for planting became a baby eagle rescue adventure for Gary Remmers and his son Justin along the Big Blue River near Barneston.
The 10-14-day old eagle was discovered on the ground near a stand of cottonwood trees by Gary Remmers.
“Dad had just cultivated a section of the field when he happened to look over his shoulder and spotted the baby eagle,” Justin Remmers said.
The eagle had fallen from its nest in a 40-50 foot cottonwood tree bordering the field on a very windy day according to Remmers. When the father and son rescued the eagle, they noticed one of the parents kept circling them and making a screeching distress sound. “The screeching sounds and circling adult eagle made the situation a little stressful,” Remmers explained.
“It is very rare that a baby eagle survives a fall from its nest because they have no wing strength to glide," Betsy Finch with Fontenelle Forest’s Raptor Recovery in Elmwood said. "They die because of the blunt trauma from the fall.”
This is the first baby eagle that has been rescued and delivered to the Raptor Recovery Center in five years, according to Finch.
When the Remmers discovered the baby eagle was alive they knew they had to make a quick decision what to do next. Remmers immediately contacted Rex Adams, a certified Master Naturalist and friend of Remmers. Adams then contacted Dina Barta, a Game and Parks Conservation Officer for the area.
Barta, who was on vacation, immediately contacted Fontenelle Forest’s Raptor Recovery and made arrangements to pick up the eagle at Adams’ home in Blue Springs and deliver it to the raptor recovery rehabilitation center in Elmwood.
“Even though I was on vacation I wanted to help. I just love those birds,” Barta said.
The young eagle is now at the Fontenelle Forest’s Raptor Recovery and Rehabilitation Center in Elmwood. A treatment plan has been implemented to begin the recovery process for the eagle. Finch would not predict how long the bird will be at the center before it is release or if it will ever be released.
Recovery staff works very hard at trying to prevent the eagle from developing a human imprint dependence which would prevent its release into the wild. “We must remember these are wild animals that are not meant to be pets and attached to humans,” Finch said.
Preventing a human dependence is very challenging because of the age of the bird. The eagle is fed two to three times a day by specially trained staff. It is fed very small pieces of fish and rabbit meat.
A number of people have called the recovery center requesting to see the baby eagle because of the exposure of the eagle on social media. Finch wanted to make it very clear that the US Fish and Wildlife Service regulations prohibit display of protected raptors. Plus, too much human exposure would be detrimental to the baby eagle.
Finch’s advice to anyone who discovers an injured raptor is to first protect yourself and it from further danger, assess its condition, get a description of the bird and cover it with a blanket. Finch warns that it is not the beak of a raptor that can injure a person or the bird itself, it is the raptor’s talons.
A Great Horn Owl may be the exception to the rule if you see one of its young on the ground. They first learn to fly from the ground. They will glide to the ground from their nest and stay on the ground for a while before getting oriented to fly. Finch advises to take the time to observe a Great Horn Owl before attempting to rescue it.
Once a raptor is safe, call 866-888-7261 or the Nebraska Game and Parks. There are an estimated 60 individuals who volunteer with raptor recovery throughout the state. One of these volunteers or a Game and Parks officer will be dispatched to help with the recovery of the raptor.
There are currently few raptor recovery volunteers in Southeast Nebraska. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer is asked to contact Denis Lewis at Fontenelle Forest’s Raptor Recovery, 402-731-3140. All volunteers must be very committed to the program and complete an intensive training program. The center recovers an average of 30 adult eagles a year and over 600 varieties of native raptors.