Back to the Wild, a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation center, warns on its
website that “sometimes a local animal rescue is a bit dramatic.”
The Castalia-based center’s founder, Mona Rutger, and her husband Bill Rutger, say an animal rescue can be dangerous, too.
“You kind of learn the hard way,” Mona said. “We’ve been injured quite a bit. It’s not the animal’s fault. They are just trying to survive.”
But it’s very possible that the end result can be satisfying, too. Two locally-based impromptu rescuers are hoping just that.
That was the case Tuesday afternoon between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. when Metroparks of the Toledo Area Ranger Richard Kiss and his second cousin, Jerusalem Township trustee Joe Kiss, encountered a sick male bald eagle near Cedar Point Road.
A local resident called the park ranger, who lives at an old residence inside Pearson’s ranger station, and Richard immediately drove to the scene.
“That’s something even a Ranger doesn’t get a chance to do very often, you know,” Richard said. “I walked around the side of the house and it was sitting, and when it saw me it was standing and, whew, it flew away and then it went back down and that’s when Joe showed up.”
“Sure enough, we got over to the residence and the bird was over in her side yard, kind of sitting in the grass,” Joe Kiss said. “It didn’t look good. It had its head down and as we approached it, it flew about 50 yards. We went back and we approached it again.
“Once we got the green light to go ahead and capture it we approached the bird with a large, plastic garbage can and the bird was kind of lying on the ground and we snuck up on it and just covered it with the garbage can. Then, we were able to transfer it to a dog crate, and then we waited on the man from (Back to the Wild),” Joe continued.
“Sure enough he came and got it and thanked us for doing what we did because a lot of times he said the bird will get away. So he said they would take it back to a veterinarian and see what the situation is and give it I.V.’s and take care of it,” Joe added.
Bill Rutger had arrived to transport the bald eagle to a vet.
“It was very exciting. We fiddled around with it and it was scary because those birds are big,” Joe Kiss added. “He said it probably was a territorial injury from a fight with another bird or it accidentally got poisoned somehow. Either way they are going to try and revitalize the bird.
“It was an awesome experience to be very honest. They fly over my house all the time but I’ve never seen one at six inches. I got right up on top of it. It was fun. I’m glad I went and did it. I was just going over to take some pictures, and once Richard and I got over there he realized no one else was coming and we just decided to take action and we did it. We got it,” Joe continued.
Cousin Richard added, “This is probably the first time ever that I know of that a Metroparks ranger ever got involved with rescuing an eagle.
“They’ll try to nurse it back to health, and they always release it back into the wild unless it’s something like a broken wing that they can’t fix. But it can fly so hopefully if they get it back to healthy it’ll be fine.
“I think he can be nursed back to health. He definitely was sick though because he was very weak and the rescue place said it was very underweight and it hadn’t been eating, so that’s why it was so weak. He gave me a brochure and I will give him a call down the road here to see how it is doing.”
Joe added, “We want to keep in touch and make sure the bird survives. I asked the people to make sure if the bird did survive that the bird be released back here in Jerusalem Township and Oregon, and he said that it would be.”
Diagnosis — lead poisoning
The diagnosis — the bald eagle was likely suffering from lead poisoning, said Mona Rutger.
“Usually they eat fish that contains lead, which is the lead source. Usually fish may have the lead in it, but it definitely gets it by ingesting food with lead in it. It’s got to be diet-related, something digested,” Ranger Kiss said.
Mona added that, “The problem there is if he has lead poisoning or some other toxin he’s very emaciated, very weak and it’s just going to be a matter of time.
“We won’t know this one’s chances until the blood work comes back. They’ve done X-rays. There are no broken bones, which is a very good thing. It doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods yet.”
“He’s stabilized now, he’s had fluids to balance his electrolytes and he just really needs some veterinarian to get some good nutrition in him and help him get back on his feet and then he’ll be a release candidate. It depends, too, if he did get poisoned from somewhere. It could have done too much damage at this point,” Mona added.
If it is lead poisoning, Mona said one could imagine the damage it can cause. Lead paint is well known for causing brain damage when exposed to young children.
“It has accumulative effects, but they may have gotten to him in time so we can hope for the best,” Mona said.