Houseboaters Find Juvenile Bald Eagle Onboard

July 2016 News Web Exclusive

Imagine enjoying a pleasantly relaxing Saturday on your houseboat. It’s a day like any other, you think as you stroll to the bow to check out the view—only to find you’ve had company and you didn’t know it.

No, it’s not that sneaky dockmate from the next slip over. It’s a juvenile bald eagle.

The Springfield News-Leader shares that on July 23, just such a scenario played out for houseboaters on Table Rock Lake, Miss., when they stumbled upon this big guy nonchalantly standing on their table. The young eagle seemed to be sick or injured, because it wasn’t attempting to fly away. Highway Patrol Troop D Sgt. John Lueckenhoff reported to the Springfield News-Leader that as the houseboat operators were calling troopers for help, Trooper Andy Ward was flagged down in his Marine Patrol boat and enlisted to the task.

"Trooper Ward boarded the vessel and managed to walk up behind the bird and catch it with a towel. He then put it in his boat, wrapped in the towel, and the bird hopped from one part of the boat to another, but never tried to escape or bite him,” Lueckenhoff reported.

Ward was able to safely transport the eagle to Missouri Department of Conservation agents, who brought the eagle to Dickerson Park Zoo's Raptor Rehabilitation Center in Springfield. Zoo spokeswoman Joey Powell reported that the eagle was less than 5 years old and had a broken left leg that had healed on its own, though zoo veterinarians weren't certain why it wasn’t able to fly.

"There is some nerve damage there, enough that he won't be able to be released into the wild," Powell stated. "He's in rehab now, and taking well to rehab — he's eating well. But unfortunately he can't be released."

But things will work out for the young eagle as the zoo works to find him a new home, either with a Native American tribe or with a zoo where he could serve as an ambassador for education about bald eagles. Maybe crashing a houseboat party wasn’t such a bad idea, after all.

Photos: Missouri State Highway Patrol

Video: Nathan Papes/News-Leader



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