Bald Eagle Success Story Personal to Residents
March 15, 2000
Antigo Daily Journal
Gene and Pat Kluwe are very fond of the wildlife in the northwoods, however a few months ago January 13 specifically; some of that wildlife took an unexpected turn into their path.
An adult Bald eagle feeding on the side of highway 45 is cause for most people to slow down if only to get a better look. Predictably, Kluwe slowed his car for the opportunity to watch this nations symbol casually eating his fill on a deer carcass. Soon wonder turned to horror as the huge bird, attempting to take flight away from the roadway unexpectedly changed course and veered head into the Kluwes car!
Stopping the car immediately, they got out to check the bird and their car. The eagle staggered then fell motionless into a snowbank near the side of the road. Both Pat and Gene felt they had to do something to help the injured eagle, how was the question. They quickly dialed 911 on their cell phone, explained their emergency, then directed traffic around the scene, and waited for help to arrive. Antigo based, DNR Warden Bill Lazarz was at the scene near Elcho within 15 minutes.
The bird was not moving. Lazarz thought the eagle had died of the impact. One eye flickered slightly as if the bird protested the premature pronouncement of his demise. .Warden Lazarz gently wrapped the bird in a blanket and transported it to Raptor Education Group, a wildlife rehabilitation center south of Antigo.
The bird appeared paralyzed. He moved only his eyes for the first 5 days, then slowly began to recover movement. He suffered from a fractured pelvis and spinal cord injury. The bird's prognosis was not good.
The eagle had a USFWS band on one leg. Within day's the bird's life history was revealed through the band number. He was banded as a chick in a Forest County nest on June 8, l988 by DNR biologist Ron Eckstein. This eagle was twelve years old and almost certainly a part of a breeding pair of eagles in the Elcho vicinity. His family had been monitored as the Wisconsin Bald Eagle population was slowly making a recovery. He was part of that success story.
Everyone associated with the case held their collective breath as they bird made progress. Slowly he began to use his feet, then the wings and finally he flew. His flight was stiff and halting at first, his initial landings were like watching a B-52 out of control. . Like any animal, including people with spinal cord injuries, physical therapy is grueling, but very important if normal function is ever to be regained. This Bald Eagle was a survivor! He pushed himself until he was perfect in every way.
With him from the beginning, it was was fitting that the Kluwes were with the eagle as he regained his freedom.
When asked to describe her thoughts watching the magnificent bird powered into the sky and played on the thermals above the sendoff crowd cheering below, Pat Kluwe said, "That day in January we were sure he would die. Even though our hitting him, had been an accident we felt so bad, neither of us could even talk about the incident." We weren't sure our best effort to get him help would be good enough." "Watching him head home a whole and perfect eagle, regaining his rightful place was so beautiful and so emotional."
"Wildlife rehabilitation is a team effort," Marge Gibson added. Without people getting involved and taking responsibility for getting the eagle help, the warden reacting quickly and transporting the bird to the rehabilitation center, his story would have ended on the side of the highway that day in January. And with this bird I suspect those prayers helped out too."
Copyright © 2000 Antigo Daily Journal