A baby golden Eagle survived after being burned during Utah’s Dump Fire near Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs in June.
Kent Keller, a veteran Utah Division of Wildlife Resources volunteer, found the baby eagle on June 28 behind a burned up juniper tree. The bird was about 25 feet below its nest.
“He had enough courage to jump from that nest and try to save himself anyway,” said Keller. “He is a real fighter.”
He added, “There was not a stick from the nest left — not on the ground or the cliff. I’ve seen nests burn before, but this is the first year I have seen one burn with young in it. They are usually long gone and flying when fire season starts.”
Keller was returning to the nest site after the fire to retrieve a band he had placed on the eagle on June 1. “I knew the nest was gone, and I knew for sure that the eagle was dead,” Keller said. “I was shocked when I saw him standing there. All of his feathers were burned off.”
Dalyn Erickson, the center’s executive director and wildlife specialist said, “The nest was completely consumed. There was nothing left of it. The cliff side was burned. For anything to live through that was outstanding.”
The vet left the baby eagle to go back and talk to federal wildlife agencies about the burned bird. On July 4th, Keller received permission to capture the eagle, and take it to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah in Ogden. The center is taking care the eagle and has named it Phoenix. The name Phoenix is a reference to the mythical bird that dies and turns to ash but resurrects itself as a fiery, majestic creature.
When the baby eagle was found, he was dehydrated and weighed only about 5 pounds. He had suffered burns on its talons, beak, head and wings. Its flight feathers had melted down only an inch or two of its wing and tail.
“I saw that there was food around him, so his parents were trying to feed him,” said Keller.
Dalyn Erickson, the center’s executive director and wildlife specialist told CNN, “He was lethargic and just obviously hurting. After we got him hydrated and medications, he perked up and that fire came back in him.”
Erickson said, “The eaglet is doing very well. He has gained almost a pound and a half, and burns are looking good. We are going to remain guarded, but we are optimistic.”
Amber Hansen, a member of the center’s board of directors added, “He looks good now. But we think if he had been there (at the nest site) another day, he probably would not have survived.”
Wildlife Rehabilitation Center hopes that by late 2013 Phoenix will be able to take his first flight, and eventually back in the wild again.
“It depends on how much follicle damage there is to his wings,” Hansen said. “If they are not too burned, he should be able to molt into new feathers next year and hopefully be able to fly.”