HANOVER, Pa. (AP) – A young bald eagle crippled by a leg trap in central Pennsylvania is recovering in a wildlife rehabilitation center but is unlikely to be returned to the wild, officials said.
The first-year hatchling was apparently caught in the fur trap in Franklin County and managed to free itself, but lost a talon on each foot in the process, wildlife rehabilitator Wendy Looker said.
Looker, of Rehabitat Inc. in Hanover, said the young bird may have walked up to a mile from the trap before it was found in the yard of a Fayetteville home, since it didn’t have the muscle power to fly.
“This bird ripped itself out of that leg hold trap after digging its beak in the mud for probably several days, starving for several days, mud all over the wingtips for several days, and walked to a neighbor’s house,” she said.
Ann Pettigrew, a veterinarian at Leader Heights Animal Hospital in York, amputated the two toes and sent the eagle back to the rehabilitation center. Looker said it’s unlikely that the young bird can be returned to the wild since the absence of the talons would place the animal at a disadvantage in Pennsylvania’s growing bald eagle population.
“You can see why this bird would not do so well,” Pettigrew said. “They really depend on all their talons to hold down food and to capture fish, which is their main diet.”
Looker, who said the bird will also have trouble perching, plans to send it to a long-term education center in a week or so and is working with the nonprofit American Eagle Foundation in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, which has education, breeding and release programs. The nonprofit also has a 150-foot long flight cage and a hillside of several acres where the eagle can stretch her wings.
“She’s going to look perfectly fine to be an exhibit,” Looker said. “This was something that somebody did. I’m determined to find the bird an education placement to drive that message home. She’s not a year old. She has 30 years to place that message.”
The Game Commission is investigating whether the fur trap was placed illegally, and if so, who placed it.
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