With a swoop of her wings, Hobo the Eagle took off into the sky after five and a half months of recovery at the Invermere Veterinary Hospital.
Hobo unintentionally hitched a ride on a northbound train on January 14th. Judy Ellison, technician at the clinic, says it appears the juvenile eagle was scavenging a deer carcass lying beside the tracks when a train came down the tracks.
“As the train came, she swooped up and it hit her,” Ms. Ellison describes.
This type of incident happens more often than you might think, Ms. Ellison says. She can think of at least four other birds that have been hit by trains and many, many more who end up at the clinic because of run-ins with man-made structures such as power lines, as well as vehicles. The team sees a wide range of birds too, from tiny pygmy owls to giant golden eagles.
Hobo was stuck to the train from Canal Flats all the way to Radium, where the engine stopped and the bird was removed. She was brought in with a fractured left wing and a fractured left leg. Dr. Mark Zhender got her in and out of surgery the same day, with the good doctor putting pins in her wing and splinting her fractured leg.
Hobo was kept in an isolated, quiet room in the clinic. After the pins were removed, she was moved to the flight cage where she worked to recover her strength. The goal is to keep the birds as wild as possible, so there is no coddling, and as minimal time between humans and birds as possible.
“It took her a few weeks to get off the ground,” Ms. Ellison says. “She couldn’t hop around, she had to get her strength back. Then all of a sudden you go in to feed her, and she’s up on a perch.”
The young eagle spent the next couple months recovering, to the point she was flaying laps around the 20 foot high, 20 foot wide, 100-foot long flight cage specially built for injured bird recovery. To confirm the bird was ready to be released, Ms. Ellison describes, Dr. Zhender tied a rope to Hobo and watched her fly outside.
“She did extremely well,” she says. By law, a bird must be released in the same area it was found, so on Tuesday, June 25th, Hobo was brought back to the Canal Flats area and released.
“She flew in an arc. She landed up on a bluff. We went up there, walked towards her and she flew again. She flew higher and higher, then disappeared.”
It was exciting to watch yet another bird recovered and released back into the wild, Ms. Ellison says. The team at the Invermere Veterinary Hospital has had more than 60 of these releases in the last eight or so years of operation.
Public donations help keep the birds fed. Any wild meat is welcome, from mice to gophers to fish and wild game. That is the best food for these wild birds.
A nonprofit society has recently formed to raise funds for the wild bird recovery efforts. Money will go towards the cost of treating the birds, including medications, surgery, and staff time. They have launched their first fundraiser – a raffle for a printed photograph, 16×25, of bald eagles in flight, shot by Wendy Chambers. Raffle tickets are available at the Invermere Veterinary Hospital for $2 minimum. The raffle closes September 3rd.
If you find an injured bird, Ms. Ellison says to wrap it in a blanket and bring it to the clinic yourself if you are able. Or call the Conservation Officer Service for assistance, at 1-877-952-7277.