Dentist to help bald eagle get his broken beak fixed

HUMAN CAUSE: Beak probably broken by fishing line tied tight.

December 25, 2009 

Dr. Kirk Johnson has convinced hundreds of young people to let him take an impression of their teeth. The process is similar, but a lot trickier, when the impression is being taken of the beak of a bald eagle. A bald eagle with a broken beak came to Anchorage's bird treatment and learning center from Seward. Johnson is trying to help the eagle get his beak back.

The bald eagle's beak "is a similar material to what I'm used to working with; a little bit different, but similar so we're happy to help, and hopefully we can come up with something that works and looks really nice," Johnson said.

Animal experts believe humans caused the broken beak, possibly with a fishing line that was tied too tight.

The mold made by Johnson, with much volunteer help, is now heading to Idaho, where experts have fixed bird beaks before.

"We ship them off to the experts and see what they can come up with," said Cindy Palmatier, director of avian care at the Anchorage center.

The experts will have several options to consider for helping this eagle, she said.

Some bald eagles don't handle captivity very well, but Palmatier says this bird is unusually gentle and calm. As long as the eagle can eat and is comfortable, Johnson says they can consider their work successful.

Once the eagle's beak is fixed, the center that saved it hopes to use him to educate others about preventing injuries to other bald eagles. This year, the bird treatment and learning center took in 32 eagles.

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