Kenai is a golden retriever who lives in Minnesota. His owner, Kerrie, works for the Wildwoods animal rehabilitation center in Duluth. This nonprofit organization helps sick or injured animals get back on their feet and return their natural lives. In January of 2016, Kenai, Kerrie, and another Wildwoods employee named Pam decided to go for a brisk walk through the snowy woods near Lake Superior. About halfway through the walk, Kenai suddenly stopped moving and began pointing at something in a nearby bush.
An Eagle in the Snow
A dog like Kenai doesn’t usually try to communicate for no reason, so Kerrie and Pam looked to see what had caught his attention. To their surprise, they saw a bird hiding in the brush just ahead. This wasn’t just any bird; it was a bald eagle. Kenai barked at his discovery, and the eagle began hopping towards the water’s edge. This hopping behavior clued in Kerrie and Pam to the fact that the eagle was injured. They tried to approach, but he kept hopping closer to the shoreline and away from his potential rescuers. The sun was starting to set, and the Wildwoods employees were worried about scaring the eagle away into the darkness. Reluctantly, the party went home to rest, regroup, and gather supplies.
Following the Tracks
Kerrie and Pam returned to Lake Superior first thing the next morning. The sun was still coming up over the horizon, and the forest air was cold and brisk. The eagle was not in the last place they’d seen him. He’d moved on overnight, probably looking for a safe place to sleep. But the snow along the lake’s edge was covered in eagle footprints, so Kerrie and Pam decided to follow the tracks. They found the eagle further up the shore, sitting majestically on the branch of a fallen tree. Now that they’d located the injured bird, the Wildwoods employees called the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for help with the rescue.
Frozen and Flustered
Two women from the DNR arrived to take part in the rescue operation. With four pairs of hands, two large blankets, and an eagle-friendly carrier, the team began the process of safely capturing the frightened bird. It took longer than they expected, and there was plenty of slipping and falling in the snow. But eventually, they were able to catch the eagle. The poor bird was shivering and upset; some of his feathers were frozen. Kerrie and Pam quickly rushed him back to Wildwoods for treatment.
Recovering at Wildwoods
First, the Wildwoods staff began thawing out the eagle’s feathers. They also gave him pain medication and fluids to rehydrate him after his traumatic experience. The eagle was surprisingly cooperative, although he did need to be wrapped in a blanket for part of his treatment plan. An initial medical exam showed that the eagle had a shoulder injury that was preventing him from flying. The Wildwoods staff also suspected that he might have lead poisoning, which is a common problem for injured animals in Minnesota.
Off to the Raptor Center
To make sure that the eagle got all of the care he needed, Wildwoods sent him off to the Raptor Center located in St. Paul. The veterinarians at the Raptor Center specialize in working with birds of prey, and they were able to conduct a full medical examination. The Raptor Center confirmed Wildwoods’ suspicions. Luckily, the center was fully equipped to help the bird recover from both his shoulder injury and his minor lead poisoning. With excellent care and prognosis of quick recovery, the eagle’s future had completely turned around. If it hadn’t been for Kenai’s sharp senses, the poor eagle might have frozen to death by Lake Superior. Thank goodness for the quick thinking and hard work of all of Minnesota’s animal rescue professionals.