Rescued eagle

Alaska Wildbird Rehab transferred a rescued eagle to the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage from their care after a period of stabilization, critical care, and running important tests.

WASILLA — A bald eagle that was recently saved by a concerned and equally determined tow truck driver is making a positive recovery after its fateful rescue near Mile 80 off the Parks Highway.

Alaska Wildbird Rehab Avian Director Katie Peterson said they transferred the rescued raptor to the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage from their care after a period of stabilization, critical care, and running important tests.

Peterson said they initially received the predator in peril April 12 from Dave Dorsey, a past volunteer at Bird Treatment and Learning Center who still helps with local bird rescue calls throughout the year. Dorsey intercepted the bird from Ryan Gharst, the tow truck diver who originally rescued it.

According to Peterson, Gharst got permission to grab the eagle with his jacket from the Alaska Wildlife Troopers. She said the eagle was lying motionless in the snow and it didn’t really respond or move while being handled.

“It was really noble of Ryan to go out and make the effort. He did all the right steps. He got permission, which is great because we don’t always have that. Sometimes we have people going out on their own without knowing what they’re doing and getting hurt,” Peterson said. “He was really lucky that the eagle was so down. Those are powerful, powerful birds.”

When the eagle arrived in their care, it laid on its haunches with its eyes closed. Peterson said they covered it and let it rest overnight. She said it was standing up and looking around the room the next morning.

“This eagle definitely needed to be in rehabilitation. If it had not come in, it 100 percent would have died out there. I mean, it couldn’t even move. Something would’ve eaten it or it would’ve just died on its own. It was kind of on death’s door there,” Peterson said.

The eagle had suffered some sort of eye injury prior to its rescue. Peterson said they’ve speculated several possibilities like prey fighting back or getting snagged on trash or some type of debris while scavenging. She noted that the eagle was particularly thin and riddled with feather lice when they received it, perhaps being a result of hunting difficulty due to the eye injury coupled with other factors.

Peterson said the eagle’s eye is the only point of concern at this point, and other than that seems to be making an encouraging recovery in Anchorage. She said that each bird recovers at a different rate depending on a myriad of factors.

“This a study of one. They’re all different,” Peterson said. “We get a lot of eagles. Eagles are one of the most troublesome birds in Alaska. They’re big, and people find them, and they eat a lot of bad stuff.”

The Alaska WildBird Rehabilitation Center cares for a wide range of species throughout the year. Peterson said the continued support from the community from people like Gharst and their relationship with partners like the Bird Treatment and Learning Center makes a huge difference in their overall mission.

“Man, that guy was going through such deep snow. Like, that is dedication, and I’m super thankful for that,” Peterson said. “We don’t have a lot of resources out here, but we do have a lot of eagle rescues… All in all, this whole thing came together really well. The bird’s on the mend and we’re hopeful it will be released, so it’s kind of a nice story.”

For more information about the Alaska WildBird Rehabilitation Center, visit akwildbird.org.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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