An adult bald eagle, helpless and dangling upside down in a tall tree, was rescued by two Arkansas Game and Fish Commission staff members last week and is apparently on the road to recovery.
A crew with the Arkansas Department of Highways and Transportation came across the bird hanging from a limb in a tall tree in southwestern Clay County and notified Cpl. Mike Ryan, a wildlife officer, and John Day, a wildlife technician.
The eagle appeared dead. Ryan and Day and a friend, Scot Sales, decided the only way to get it down was to shoot the limb loose.
They did with Sales' rifle equipped with telescopic sights.
When the limb and the bird fell to the ground, the bird fluttered its wings. And a mystery unfolded.
The eagle was tangled on the limb by jesses, leather straps fastened to each of its legs. These are used by falconers who hunt with birds or prey and also by persons in charge of captive eagles, hawks and owls used for educational purposes.
But it is a federal offense in the Untied States to use eagles for hunting.
Some eagles that have been injured and are unable to be released back into the wild are used by licensed organizations for educational work, according to Karen Rowe, the AGFC's non-game migratory bird program coordinator.
No such eagles have been reported escaped, she said.
Adding to the mystery was a second eagle that watched Ryan, Day and Sales from its perch high in a nearby tree. Could the second bird have been a mate or perhaps a passing eagle that attempted to find a friend?
Rowe said bald eagles are permitted to be used for falconry in Canada, and some of the eagles that winter in Arkansas come from as far to the north as Ontario and other Canadian provinces.
"It was fortunate that Mike Ryan and John Day found this eagle and got it down," Rowe said. "Birds of prey hanging upside down like that can't stay alive very long."
The eagle was taken to Dr. Archie Ryan, a Jonesboro veterinarian who has experience treating birds of prey including eagles and other injured wildlife.
It is expected to recover and to be released back into the wild.
Rowe urged that anyone having knowledge of this eagle with the leg straps to contact her or Ryan. Callers' identities will be kept confidential.
Rowe can be reached toll-free at 877-893-4651 or at her cell phone, 870-872-2279, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Ryan can be reached at 870-857-0097 or 870-323-0350.