A bald eagle rescued from Lynn Lake has been set free after nearly two months in a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Île des Chênes.
RCMP in the northern community released the bird, dubbed Slushie by locals, on June 19.
“We just got him back last week Tuesday,” Sgt. Kyle McFadyen said. “A couple of weeks ago, earlier in June, the Wildlife Haven had contacted us and they had said that actually, Slushie was doing very well.”
“They normally could release it back into the wild down south, but because of its medical ailment there, they thought it would be best if we released it back to the habitat it came from and was most familiar.”
Slushie was found in April when the local RCMP detachment received a call from a community member who found the eagle trapped in the slush on a lake.
“They assumed there was some sort an injury that prevented him from flying — perhaps a broken wing,” McFadyen said. “When they had rescued him, they had used a blanket, covered him up and brought him into town in their van.”
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McFadyen and Const. Lindsay Evans brought a dog kennel to secure the bird, and sent him down to Wildlife Haven south of Winnipeg.
Slushie was very strong, Lui said, noting it took three people to hold him down during his preliminary examination with a local veterinarian.
Lui said both the missing eye and the scratch were found to be old injuries, and Slushie was otherwise healthy. He had no injuries, and Lui said she believes he was likely thought to be injured because his feet became trapped in the slush, preventing him from flying, when he was first discovered two months ago.
Wildlife Haven staff began the rehabilitation process, and soon decided the somewhat blind bird was fit to be released back into his natural habitat.
“We made sure to do flight tests and prey tests to make sure it can hunt and fly properly,” Lui said. “It showed that it had no problem with flying or catching of food, so we determined that as an adult eagle, it had adapted to that disability already.”
“It had survived perfectly fine in the wild for a long period of time, living life to its fullest, and we figured why not let it continue living on that way.”
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Lui got in touch with RCMP several weeks ago to let them know Slushie was ready to return home.
“We engaged the RCMP air services and they were able to actually give him a direct flight in a dog kennel back up to Lynn Lake,” McFadyen said. “The RCMP plane was able to bring him up from Winnipeg right up to Lynn Lake. Our officers took him, and based on the information we got from Wildlife Haven, found a suitable location to release him.”
McFadyen said the detachment invited multiple officers and their families to the bird’s release, which he remembers as a special moment.
They released Slushie about an hour after he touched down in Lynn Lake, keeping his time in the dog kennel as minimal as possible.
“To get a chance to experience an eagle up close, in its natural habitat, it’s a rare opportunity,” McFadyen said. “I know my family in particular, they really appreciated that opportunity to be part of that.”
And the eagle seemed to appreciate the moment, too.
“When we first released him out of the kennel, he only flew about 10 feet away,” McFadyen said. “He stood there to get his bearings … but it was almost like he posed for a photo opportunity for us, and it was actually really neat.”
“He sat there for a few minutes, then off he went, without hesitation.”
Slushie wasn’t the first animal McFadyen and his partner have dealt with on the job.
The pair rescued a several puppies and their mother in February.