James Farkas holds an injured eagle he rescued. The starving bird was being attacked by several turkey vultures on a beach in north Nanaimo. In a strange twist of fate, Farkas had been rescued from the same beach months earlier when he fell from a cliff and broke his femur. (Photo submitted)

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

A man who fell off a cliff and had to be rescued happened to end up back in the very same place, this time as the rescuer.

James Farkas, who fell down an embankment on Nanaimo’s Bayshore Drive late last summer, was back there last week and helped an eagle facing near-certain death get a shot at soaring local skies again.

Farkas was visiting friends the evening of May 12 when one of his friends noticed some unusual activity on the beach the house overlooks.

“So I went down to the beach and I seen all these turkey vultures just hammering on this eagle, like, seven or eight of them. Just beating on him,” Farkas said. “So I go down to the beach and chase the turkey vultures away and he had a broken wing, so I corralled him, took my shirt off, put it over him, picked him up and brought him home.”

The eagle had been forced into a tide pool and had little strength left, but Farkas was surprised at how calm the bird was once he had his shirt around him and the bird even let him stroke its head.

Because of the time of night, there were no wildlife services he could contact, so he called the Nanaimo RCMP dispatch, which contacted WildAID, a volunteer organization operated by Lorinne Anderson and her husband Norm Snihur, a helicopter pilot who uses his aircraft to quickly move wild animals to wildlife treatment and rehabilitation centres.

Anderson arrived within half an hour of Farkas’s call to the RCMP dispatcher.

“That was awesome of the dispatcher,” he said. “They get a lot of credit for knowing [who to call].”

In a strange coincidence, the site where Farkas spotted the eagle was the same place he was rescued after falling down the cliff and breaking his femur in September.

“I got rescued and then I sort of had to pay it forward and rescue the bird,” he said.

Anderson brought the bird to her home and contacted Rob Hope, raptor care manager at OWL (Orphaned Wildlife) in Vancouver, who advised her to feed the starving bird quail, which she keeps in stock at her home in Nanaimo for rescued raptors. Snihur flew the eagle to OWL the following morning where it is recovering.

Anderson said it was one of the easier raptor rescues.

“Jim had done all the hard work,” Anderson said. “Our part in this was actually quite small. Sometimes we’re the one climbing down and fetching it up. This one was real easy. He had it in his living room.”

The eagle is recovering, but its fate is yet to be known. The bird has a broken right shoulder that is healing, Hope said, and has a better than 50 per cent chance of being returned to Nanaimo and released.

“He’s a sub-adult bird. Upon admission, he was basically starving,” Hope said.

It will be a few more weeks before it will be known if the bones heal well enough to support flight. Nothing medically, otherwise, can be done, but the bird is eating and gaining weight and strength.

Hope said OWL staff unwrap the wing each week to stretch it, check the healing and re-wrap it.

“It will be four to five weeks before it heals good enough that we can move him into a flight cage,” Hope said.

The eagle’s natural disposition toward humans and his natural aggressive instincts have also returned along with his weight and strength and Hope reports he is a “completely different bird” from when he arrived.

“Oh, he hates us. He hates us, but that’s what we want,” Hope said. “When we catch him to change his wraps and stuff, he’s biting and fighting and carrying on, but that’s the way we like it. We want these guys to show the will to survive and, of course, [seeing] us as not as their friends, but as their foe is actually what we want from them so that’s good.”

Anderson said, except in rare cases such as Farkas’s eagle rescue, it’s always better for people to call organizations such as WildAID before intervening when a wild animal is found in trouble.

WildAID helps raptors and other birds – they recently helped a great horned owl and a merganser chick – as well as other wild animals and unwanted wildlife such as raccoons and can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 250-616-8888.

Farkas hopes to be present when the bird is released.

“[Anderson] asked me to text her the address where I caught him at so they could bring him to there for the release and I said, yeah, I want to be there when you let him go,” Farkas said.

READ ALSO: Rescue centre puts out call for food for eagles on Vancouver Island

READ ALSO: Society looking for Abbotsford homeless man who saved injured eagle found on highway



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