A bloody eagle perched on a bicycle outside the Unalaska home of Andy McCracken was sent to Anchorage last week, where it was euthanized because of a fractured skull.
"There's not much we can do" with severe head injuries, said Amy Kilshaw, rehabilitation coordinator at Bird Treatment and Learning Center. She said the eagle's skull was cracked by an unknown blunt force consistent with being struck by a vehicle. It couldn't have been cracked by another eagle in a bird fight, she said.
McCracken found the "huge" bald eagle outside his Armstrong Court apartment as he returned home from work April 6. A toe was broken off a claw and blood ran down its head, matting the feathers.
He called local police, who aren't equipped to handle injured eagles, but who referred him to the local office of Fish and Wildlife Protection, of the Alaska State Troopers. The bird was eventually captured by Fish and Wildlife Protection technician Damien Lopez Plancarte, according to McCracken, praising his skill at taking the raptor into custody.
"It was impressive," McCracken said, after seeing him toss a blanket over the bird and then put it in a kennel. "It was like he'd done it a hundred times." He added that the community needs more people trained to deal with eagles.
Kershaw said only about 60 percent of the injured birds can be helped. The Unalaska raptor was gassed to death, she said.
This is a very busy time of year in the bird rescue business, she added.
"We've been getting them from all over," not just from Unalaska and Adak in the Aleutian Islands. In Kodiak, some 500 are flying around the town, and one local resident found 20 hungry eagles in his chicken coop, hunting live poultry, she said.
The eagles are very hungry this time of year, and that makes them more aggressive and likelier to get into fights with each other, she said. McCracken said he's seen plenty of eagle battles recently, including two fighting in the road in front of his house earlier the same day.
When he first saw the eagle on his son's bike seat, McCracken said he was afraid to get out of his truck. So he called the police, and waited for a while. But then a neighbor came by and walked near the eagle, which didn't attack. Only then did he leave his vehicle.
McCracken was saddened to hear of the eagle's fate. His son Clayton was also disappointed with the experience, he said, but for a different reason. He'd hoped the eagle's claws would have punctured his bike seat, so he could show off the holes to his friends.
Kershaw said airfare for shipping injured birds to Anchorage is either donated by airlines, or paid by government agencies.
"We'd be broke within a week if we had to pay for every bird that comes to us." The hurt birds are shipped from Unalaska on Ace Air Cargo, she said.