Minnesota Residents Nurse Injured Eagle Back to Health, Release It Into the Wild

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Feng Wei Photography via Getty Images)

Back in August, Minnesota resident Laird Draves was sitting at his kitchen table when he heard a strange noise coming from outside. Unsure of what he would find, Draves ventured cautiously into his backyard. To his surprise, it wasn’t a stray cat or dog but an eagle sitting calmly on his deck.

The eagle wasn’t harming anything, so he left it there and went back to work. Two hours later, he checked his yard again and again found the eagle staring up at him from his back deck. This time, he approached the massive bird but the eagle glided away from him.

Noticing that the bird appeared unable to fly, Laird Draves called the Department of Natural Resources. The DNR advised Draves that eagles sometimes overeat, leaving them unable to fly for several hours. If he waited a little while longer, the bird would likely finish digesting its food and fly away.

Two more hours went by, however, and the eagle was still there. At this point, Draves began to worry that the bird was injured and called his neighbor for help.

Minnesota Neighbors Capture Injured Eagle With Welding Gloves

Though the eagle was clearly hurt, Laird Draves was unwilling to attempt to touch it bare-handed – and wisely so. A bald eagle has four talons on each foot, each 1-2 inches in length and razor-sharp, more than enough to cause serious damage should the bird become frightened.

Luckily, Draves’ neighbor, Jay Sikkink, had welding gloves at his house, which they used to safely move the eagle into a truck for transport.

“Jay brought the welding gloves, I brought the muskie net, and then some of the other neighbors served to sort of corral because he could still run. He was good at running,” Draves told The Globe. “So we were able to sort of corral him down to the lakeshore where he couldn’t get out on the water, and then I ran in and scooped him up with the net. And then Jay had the gloves.”

With the eagle in the truck, Daves and Sikkink set off toward Wild and Free Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Unfortunately, they were closed for the day, so the men left the bird in an after-hours pen outside.

To protect the eagle from the sweltering heat, they covered its pen with army surplus blankets. “We made do with what we had,” Draves said. “And fortunately, it was good enough.”

Wildlife Rehab Helps Nurse Eagle Back to Health

Once back at the office, Dr. Debbie Eskedahl, founder of Wild and Free, found the eagle to have two sprains in one of its wings. She’s unsure what caused the injury, but a collision with a power line seems likely. The eagle was transported to Wild and Free’s flight pen to undergo rehabilitation and six weeks later, was released back into the wild.

“It’s really nice that we just finished building a 100-foot-long flight pen a year ago for these guys,” Eskedahl said. “And that makes her rehab so much easier because then she can fly the whole hundred feet and gain her strength again.”

For Laird Draves and Jaw Sikkink, saving the majestic eagle is an experience they’ll never forget. Thanks to the two men and the local wildlife rescue, the eagle is soaring through the Minnesota skies once more.