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Golden Eagle recovering at Hilden wildlife rehabilitation centre

This rescued golden eagle is now recovering at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre after being plucked from the ocean by lobster fisherman Justin Conrad and crew a few kilometers off Seal Island. COBEQUID WILDLIFE REHABILITATION
This rescued golden eagle is now recovering at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre after being plucked from the ocean by lobster fisherman Justin Conrad and crew a few kilometers off Seal Island. COBEQUID WILDLIFE REHABILITATION - Submitted

HILDEN – The young golden eagle had been aboard the lobster boat for a couple of hours before realizing Justin Conrad and the crew were saving his life.

“He was a bit lifeless at first,” recalled Conrad of the moments immediately after rescuing the creature a few kilometres off Seal Island on Wednesday afternoon. “We put him down at the sleeping quarters of the boat and a few hours later he started perking up.

“We started shaking and fluffing his feathers, and he just kind of started staring at us the whole way back to shore and I think he kind of understood we were trying to help.”

The eagle did survive the three-hour boat ride to Cape Sable Island and is currently recovering at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Hilden.

“It’s pretty impressive, pretty amazing,” said Murdo Messer, who co-founded the non-profit organization with his wife, Helene Van Doninck, 17 years ago. “We’ve seen people rescuing swimming eagles but not when it was that far off the coast. He would have been quite exhausted and there’s no doubt that those men saved his life.”

The eagle overnighted at a Department of Natural Resources facility in Yarmouth and arrived at the centre on Thursday.

“He was pretty feisty and he kind of bounced back a little bit. He wasn’t super thin and he’s pretty healthy. No broken bones and blood samples came back OK.”

Conrad says he’s happy to know the first golden eagle he’s ever laid eyes on is expected to make a full recovery.

“It feels pretty nice that we did something good, because I guess he would have been a goner if we wouldn’t have gotten to it,” said Conrad. “He was three miles from the shore and there was lots of tide at the time.”

Messer believes the creature became stranded in the water after attempting to fetch a meal.

“Sometimes once they’re in the water they’re either unable or unwilling to let go of what they caught.”

As a result, eagles can sometimes become exhausted and waterlogged as they attempt to swim ashore with their meal.

Messer said the plan was to conduct a few more tests on the bird, including X-rays on Friday. In the meantime, the eagle is being held in a large building to recover before its scheduled to be released back into the wild in a couple of weeks.

“We want to get him back in the wild. It’s a beautiful creature, the size of the talons are huge, three inches long, and its sheer size is impressive. It’s small for a golden eagle but a very big bird.”

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