The mother and daughter who discovered the first two of what ultimately turned out to be 12 poisoned bald eagles in the Cowichan Valley had the opportunity on Thursday afternoon to watch the release of one of the birds.
Deb Cvitanovich spotted the first eagle as she left for work on the morning of Jan. 16, and had her daughter, Deana, call rescuers when it was still in the same place as she left for school. A second bird was found on their property later that day, and 10 more were located in the area four days later. In all, six live eagles and six dead eagles were found.
The first eagle that recovered was returned to the wild last Sunday, and the second was released on Thursday.
It was an emotional moment for the Cvitanoviches as they watched the bird fly off.
“It was really neat to see that dog crate door open with that eagle in it, and it just took off, happy and healthy,” Deb said. “So nice to see it go into the wild. I almost needed the Kleenex, but I’m OK now.”
“It’s really cool to see it back out there where it belongs,” Deana added.
Raptor Rescue Centre volunteer Isaac King had the honour of opening the cage to set the eagle free on Thursday.
“We’re really happy with how it turned out,” he said. “Nice strong flight. He found a good perch, and we’re happy with that.”
Of the six eagles that were found alive, two have now been released, one passed away in care up-Island, and the other three are still recovering.
“We’ve got two more up there under the care of North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre,” King explained. “Just while they stretch their wings and stay under observation as we make sure that after the poisoning symptoms fade that there’s no secondary issues that crop up, various injuries or complications that might have occurred.”
Another bird remains in care at the Duncan facility, and will probably take longer to recover as he sustained wrist trauma prior to his rescue.
“We figure he either took a hard landing out of a tree or bumped into something as he came down because of his poor condition,” King said.
The birds are believed to have fed off the carcass of a euthanized farm animal that was not properly disposed of. An investigation by the B.C. Conservation Officer Service is underway. Conservation officers were not available for comment on Thursday.
Anyone who finds a dead or sick eagle should contact the Raptor Rescue Society at 778-936-0732.