Peace River Wildlife Center admitted a bald eagle that had been burned by a power line Nov. 12, 2019. Fished out of a canal by PRWC rescuer Donna Widmeyer (with the help of a PGI boater), the adult male eagle was transported to the wildlife hospital for treatment.
The feathers on the entire left side of the bird were singed — his head, breast, wing and tail feathers were all torched. He also had black marks on the bottoms of his feet that we feared may have been the ingress and egress sites of a powerful jolt.
With electrical burns, the concern is that the visible damage is just the tip of the iceberg. There can be internal injuries along the entire path of the electrical current, from the site of entry to where it exited. All the tissue and organs between those two sites can be destroyed immediately or can suffer insidious damage that manifests over the course of 24 to 48 hours after the initial injury.
Luckily, the burns and lesions on his facial skin, leg and feet were superficial. Volt, as the eagle was affectionately named by his intrepid rescuer, recovered rapidly from his initial injuries. He was soon transferred to an off-site 100-foot flight cage to await the regrowth of all his burned feathers. That process can take up to three years. These majestic predators don’t molt all their feathers at once, because that would leave them too vulnerable.
The off-site flight cage is in a rather inhospitable area. That’s intentional — part of an effort to keep the bird away from prying eyes and to ensure he doesn’t get habituated while in our care. A merry band of PRWC volunteers became his housekeeping and room service staff. Braving hordes of marauding mosquitoes, one of these determined folks checked on Volt every day to clean his habitat and provide food.
After nearly a year in captivity, Volt was ready for release, just in time for bald eagle mating season in Southwest Florida. He was released at Punta Gorda Nature Park, mere blocks away from where he was rescued and in the heart of his one-square-mile territory.
While most bald eagles return to the same mate and nest site each year, if either is no longer available, the survivor will find a new mate and, if necessary, build a new nest or steal one from another large bird (typically, a great horned owl.) In Florida’s subtropical climate, the eagle’s breeding season can range from October to April, but most clutches are laid during December and January.
Since Volt was missing during most of last year’s mating season and all summer, his mate my well have found a new paramour. That is a major reason for needing the eagle to be in top health and have excellent flight skills. He will need to fend off the new guy or find a new territory for himself.
Volt was released the morning of the Harvest Moon — the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. Hopefully, that will portend good things for him: A fruitful mating season and a good “crop” of eaglets. It would be nice if he could relay his misadventures to his mate and children, so they won’t get into the same trouble eventually.
But we all know that the wife and kids aren’t going to listen to dad’s boring stories. “Sure, Dad, you were literally on fire and some nice people doused the flames and protected you while you healed!” You can just imagine their little eagle eyes rolling to the backs of their heads as they contemplate such a rare species as “nice people.”
Peace River Wildlife Center is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to the care, preservation and protection of Charlotte County’s native wildlife since 1978. Injured, abandoned or orphaned native wild animals are accepted at the center’s care facility (223 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Punta Gorda) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Their home for permanent resident animals at 3400 Ponce de Leon Pkwy, Punta Gorda, is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. PRWC receives no government funding and relies entirely on private donations. For more info, visit PRWildlife.org, email PeaceRiverWildlife@yahoo.com or call 941-637-3830.