By Sara Christensen
I am a part-time resident of Orcas Island and have found it to be home to a remarkable community. The events of the last couple of weeks challenged that sense yet reinforced it as well.
On Friday, June 2, I was enjoying an evening walk on my property when I noticed tire tracks going into my meadow. I thought maybe it was a neighbor or someone on a mower. About 100 yards into the property lay a dead duck (or small goose); it appeared to have been freshly killed. I looked around, a bit puzzled by this, but ultimately I attributed it to an accident of some sort and let it be.
The following morning I was working in the field when a bald eagle was calling and swooping from a perch in the big trees. It was an exquisite sight and such fortune to witness one. It dropped to the ground and devoured the bird I had seen the night previously.
About 30 minutes later I was back at the house when I saw the eagle drop onto the driveway, upright but very still. I watched it for a few minutes and knew something was wrong. Alarmed, I began making phone calls (sheriff, neighbors, Fish and Game, and U.S Fish and Wildlife). My neighbor, a veterinarian and generally wonderful guy, told me to contact Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. I had never heard of it and was skeptical that a volunteer-based rehabilitation organization would be able to help.
I was wrong.
Wolf Hollow staff said they would try to find an “eagle catcher” on Orcas to help me. Within the hour an incredible woman by the name of Janet Alexander came to the house, collected the bird who was barely breathing, loaded him onto the ferry and got him to San Juan Island.
The next morning I called, quite certain the bird would not have made the ferry ride. To my surprise, the young woman said he was still alive but very, very sick. On Monday I called again. I was told he was standing up, alert and taking food. They explained it’s likely the dead bird he ate had been prepared with poison that caused throat paralysis.
The news of his recovery was stunning as was the acceptance that someone would do that to any creature, much less such a special bird. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service has been involved, though the perpetrator will be very difficult to identify.
On June 7 the bird was returned to Orcas through volunteer efforts, and Janet brought him back to the house for release. He bolted from the kennel and flew quickly over the property, over the veterinarian’s property and into the sky above Crow Valley.
In my 52 years on this earth, I don’t know that much has moved me like this. I would like to thank those around me and all the people on this island who have helped, reacted and heard this story. I hope the eagle is safe in the skies and with any fortune returned to a nest, as it is likely it is part of a mating pair with, perhaps, chicks.
Wolf Hollow is made up of the finest group of folks I have ever met. I am so fortunate to be on this magnificent island and to have encountered such fine people.