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Injured bald eagle near Ingersoll-Woodstock, Ont., released following rescue

The eagle was admitted to Salthaven with symptoms of lead poisoning, according to Salt, who said it weighed around 15 pounds. Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

A wildlife rehabilitation centre near London, Ont., helped an injured eagle fly high again.

Brian Salt, the president and founder of Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Centre, spoke with 980 CFPL Sunday about the eagle’s speedy recovery.

READ MORE: Salthaven West issues plea for help as they rehab six great horned owls

“We got a call for a downed bald eagle in the Ingersoll-Woodstock area [Tuesday],” said Salt.

“Its head and eyelids were kind of droopy, it was weak, and it was an easy capture because of all those symptoms.”

The eagle was admitted to Salthaven with symptoms of lead poisoning, according to Salt, who described the bird as “big,” and said it weighed around 15 pounds.

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Salt said shortly after the eagle was admitted, it showed signs of “perkiness.”

The team began treating it for head trauma thinking it might be temporary, “… and sure enough, by the next morning, [the eagle] was standing and looking a lot better. By the end of day three, it was very cranky, which is the way we like to see it.”

By the fourth day, the eagle’s feet gained strength, and “she” was brought back to where she was found.

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“It was evident that when we released her, she knew exactly where she wanted to be. When we went into her enclosure on the third day, she was more than feisty.”

Click to play video: 'Birds of a feather: Bald eagle takes prey under its wing' Birds of a feather: Bald eagle takes prey under its wing
Birds of a feather: Bald eagle takes prey under its wing – Jun 8, 2017

“If she could’ve had her way with us, she would’ve,” Salt chuckled.

“We go in well-equipped and armoured up for situations like that because you never know what’s going to meet you on the other side of the door.”

Before the official release, Salt said the bald eagle had a test flight on a test line and proved she was fully ready.

“We had a lot of drag on that line, and she was pulling that like it wasn’t even there, so we knew she was going to be OK to be released.”

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Salt said Salthaven has looked after six bald eagles in the past few years.

What makes this rescue special is the eagle’s fast recovery time compared to other eagles, which can stay for as long as six months at the rehabilitation centre, Salt said.

He said a lot of the eagles they’ve rescued in the past dealt with lead poisoning, especially during hunting season or early spring.

“Some deers are shot by hunters or hit by a car but was previously shot,” Salt explained.

READ MORE: Incredible photo shows standoff between bald eagle and squirrel

The bullet, made of lead, “… will sometimes hit a bone and it shatters the bullet, and a lot of that lead will end up in the entrails in the gut piles that are left behind by hunters, and eagles will eat that.”

Internal bleeding can be common with lead poisoning, which can cause death if not treated in time, according to Salt.

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But it’s not easy to identify whether an eagle may need help.

“Eagles are such tough animals. You don’t even know anything’s wrong with them until they’re just about dead, or literally falling out of the tree.”

Click to play video: 'Melvin the bald eagle recovering at N.S. wildlife rehab centre after being shot' Melvin the bald eagle recovering at N.S. wildlife rehab centre after being shot
Melvin the bald eagle recovering at N.S. wildlife rehab centre after being shot – Jun 15, 2016

Other than lead poisoning, Salt said rodenticide poisoning is also common in birds of prey.

This is when rodents such as rats eat rat poison and get eaten by a bird of prey, like owls, hawks or eagles. The rat poison will likely kill those birds too, Salt said.

“[It’s] ironic because those birds keep rodent population under control.”
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“We try to encourage people not to use rat poisons, and [to use] snap traps or live traps if they have to, but the rodenticides are death on nature.”

READ MORE: Rare golden eagle recovering at Nova Scotia wildlife rehabilitation centre

If you spot an injured bald eagle, Salt recommends to stay away and not go near it, because they have gripping strength in their feet of 700 pounds per square inch.

“That’s like somebody weighing 700 pounds with one-inch heels standing on your hand with one foot with all their weight – that’s going to leave a mark.”

Salt said your best option is to call a rehabilitation centre that deals specifically with birds of prey.

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