A volleyball net, a front-end loader, a firetruck and 600 feet of marine rope.
That’s what Delta’s Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (OWL) used to rescue a juvenile bald eagle that was stuck in a water treatment settling pond in Richmond. OWL posted video of the rescue, which took place on Saturday, Aug. 24, to its social media channels earlier this week.
On Saturday, Aug. 24, a Good Samaritan called OWL to report the young eagle was stuck in a settling pond at the Iona Island Waste Treatment Plant. The bird had landed on the muddy surface of the pond and its feathers soon became clogged with sludge, rendering it unable to fly away.
“The bird was trapped on a patch of vegetation — if he stepped off he would start to sink, having to breaststroke back to the island of vegetation,” OWL wrote on Facebook.
Rescuers had few options to help the bird; safety restrictions meant boats and people are not allowed in the settling pond, and using a helicopter was out of the questions since the pond is located within Vancouver International Airport’s restricted airspace.
What’s more, the treatment plant’s crane wasn’t long enough to help either, as its 18 metre reach was not enough to get to the eagle 40 metres away.
OWL staff and volunteers came up with a plan to suspend a 10-metre volleyball net between a Richmond fire truck and the treatment plant’s front-end loader, then “drive” the net to the patch of vegetation the eagle was clinging to in the hope the bird would get caught up in it and could then be pulled to shore.
Once the eagle was reeled in, rescuers cut the bird free and brought it back to OWL’s facility in South Delta for medical treatment and rehabilitation. Thankfully, aside from being weak and hungry, the eagle’s only injuries were some minor scrapes.
The young eagle was fed salmon and kept in OWL’s intensive care unit for a number of days for further observations and cleaning before being released back into the wild on Tuesday, Sept. 17.
Watch OWL’s full 23-minute video of the eagle’s rescue and rehabilitation below.