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Golden eagle rescued by crew of Cape Sable Island lobster vessel Wishful Dreams

The golden eagle, plucked from the ocean by the crew of the lobster fishing boat Wishful Dreams, was sent to the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. COBEQUID WILDLIFE REHABILITATION CENTRE PHOTO
The golden eagle, plucked from the ocean by the crew of the lobster fishing boat Wishful Dreams, was sent to the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. COBEQUID WILDLIFE REHABILITATION CENTRE PHOTO - Submitted

CAPE SABLE ISLAND, N.S. – The Cape Sable Island lobster fishing boat Wishful Dreams lived up to its name for a golden eagle rescued by the crew on May 2 after being found near death floating on the fishing grounds about a mile and a half northwest of Seal Island.

Wet, exhausted but alive is how the crew of the lobster fishing boat Wishful Dreams found a golden eagle on the fishing grounds on May 2. The eagle is now at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and is expected to make a full recovery.
Wet, exhausted but alive is how the crew of the lobster fishing boat Wishful Dreams found a golden eagle on the fishing grounds on May 2. The eagle is now at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and is expected to make a full recovery.

“We were hauling gear and steaming to another string and I happened to see him in the water,” recalled crewmember Steven Nickerson. “I didn’t really know what it was. I knew it was a different kind of bird. I thought it was dead but then I happened to see his head bobbing up and down so I got Kevin (Swim, the boat captain) to turn around and go back. We got alongside it and it was still alive so we got him aboard.”

Nickerson said it was around noontime when they picked the eagle up.

“We only had another four or five strings to haul so I put him on the other side of the boat and wrapped him up in one of my sweaters,” he said. “I knew he was cold because he was shaking a little bit but he couldn’t get up. He was laying with his head down. It looked liked he was on his last legs.”

Nickerson moved the eagle up by the wheelhouse where it was warmer and said the eagle started to perk up a little bit. “So I put him down ‘ford where the heater is and let him sit there and dry off. I figured he might perk up and we left him there until we got done.”

After the last lobster traps were hauled, the deck cleaned and Wishful Dreams began steaming back to port, Nickerson said he and fellow crewmember Justin Conrad went to check on the eagle and it “kinda stood up.”

A call was made to shore by Conrad to his partner to contact the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), who were waiting at the Newellton wharf when the Wishful Dreams arrived.

“I’m glad he came to,” said Nickerson. “If we hadn’t picked him up he wouldn’t have survived because no one else would have been around there to see him. It was just luck. We were going by, he was going by… it was just luck. We just did what we thought, get him warm and dry. “

The experience is one Nickerson won’t soon forget.

“It felt awesome to save him. I’d never seen something like that (an eagle) that close up. I’ve seen them flying around but to see one that close up and to touch it and to see it come alive it was awesome.”

After spending the night in Yarmouth, the golden eagle was transported to the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (CWRC) in Brookfield by DNR.

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“When DNR brought him to us, he looked pretty tired but nothing was broken. His legs and wings were working. He was alert and he wasn’t very thin either,” said Murdo Messer, co-founder of the CWRC. “Usually when they are brought in they’re super emaciated. This guy was thin but not super thin, so he was in pretty good shape other than having been swimming in the ocean.”

Messer said there could be a number of reasons why the golden eagle became grounded in the ocean.

Murdo Messer, co-founder of the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (CWRC), holds the golden eagle saved by the crew of the lobster fishing boat Wishful Dreams on May 2. COBEQUID WILDLIFE REHABILITATION CENTRE PHOTO
Murdo Messer, co-founder of the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (CWRC), holds the golden eagle saved by the crew of the lobster fishing boat Wishful Dreams on May 2. COBEQUID WILDLIFE REHABILITATION CENTRE PHOTO

“Maybe he was chasing a fish and got stuck and couldn’t let go… we don’t know why he was in the water,” he said.

“Sometimes once they’re in the water, they’re either unable or unwilling to let go of what they caught,” he also said. As a result, eagles can sometimes become exhausted and waterlogged as they attempt to swim ashore with their meal.

The CWRC will be doing tests and x-rays on the eagle to make sure everything is ok.

“Once we know everything is ok with him its just a matter of letting him rest up for a bit and regain his strength and return him back to the wild.”

Messer estimated the CWRC will probably keep the eagle for two or three weeks.

“We want to make sure he can fly and to do that we have a large flyaway in our big raptor building and right now we have seven eagles in it so we have to catch the eagles and put them in a temporary space and let the golden eagle fly on his own. If we put them in there together, they would probably fight so we have to separate them. Once we know he can fly he’s out of here.”

The Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is a non-profit organization founded in 2001 founded by Messer and his wife, Helene Van Doninck, a veterinarian. This is the first time the CWRC has treated a golden eagle, whose normal range is western North America.

“It’s pretty impressive, pretty amazing,” said Messer. “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.”

Messer said if people would like to donate to help care for the animal they can through the CWRC Facebook page or their website at http://cwrc.net/cms2/wp/

(With some files from Andrew Rankin, Saltwire Network)

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