Record number of eagles inundate center
Area birds of prey continue to have a safe haven in Carbon County as the Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation Center has seen it's numbers climb to the maximum this winter. The center is currently rehabilitating five eagles, the most to receive care at one time in the small facility's history.
Center director Debbie Pappas and a small group of volunteers including Connie Waddell have worked tirelessly in the past months to insure adequate care is delivered to animals that have hope for re-release into the wild and those who will have to remain in captive care for the rest of their lives.
"Avian medical technology has come a long way," said Pappas as she spoon fed a giant golden eagle on Tuesday. "But sometimes the damage is just too severe and the animal would never survive in it's native habitat."
The bald eagle currently at the center is a gun shot victim, who according to center personnel, was shot twice before it was retrieved by the Division of Wildlife Resources.
"The people who perpetrate these crimes need to realize that there are serious charges associated with their actions and that law enforcement will continue to work this case as if it were any other felony," explained Pappas.
The eagle named Shu is taking treatment well and it is the intention of Pappas and Waddell that even though the bird cannot be released, he will be able to service the public and enjoy the remainder of his life as an educational bird, hopefully in Utah.
In addition to the eagles, Pappas cares for all types of avian species and can even accept some mammals under her permit, which was obtained in 2001. She is currently caring for a turkey vulture that was found in Boulder with a broken wing that had set in the wrong position. That bird also cannot be released.
Animal medication has come so far that the apparatus seen on many of the mending birds highly resembles drastic human operations. Several of the large predators have rods, pins and screws affixed to their wings.
"These are highly intense, delicate and expensive procedures," said Pappas. "It used to be that when an animal received bone damage putting them down was the only option. However, with all the current advancements we feel almost any living bird can have a second chance."
This sentiment is no more apparent than in the case of Fremont, an adult golden eagle. After being struck by a semi in Nine Mile Canyon, the bird was dragged along the truck's first trailer and then sucked under the second and pulverized.
"I am more optimistic than Debbie," said lead volunteer Waddell as they fed the raptor. "I think this bird has a 20 percent chance of release, an amazing feat after everything he has been through."
While these amazing creatures are able to survive the most horrific accidents, they are also fragile. A golden eagle the team refuses to name, because they hope it's release will come soon, nearly died because of the way a piece of prey had become stuck in its craw.
"These animals can be just like humans in many ways. They can be very strong and of very fragile depending on the situation," explained Pappas.
Right now the center's best hope for a completely rehabilitated bird is a juvenile golden eagle named Ivy. The large female was by a vehicle along I-70 and also required special surgery and apparatus but is responding well to antibiotics, treatment and has begun to eat on her own.
While the center supports local veterinarians and animal suppliers as much as possible, they rely on the surgical skills of Jay Itsen in Payson for major surgery because he is an avian specialist.
"We look for help wherever we can get it," said Pappas. "It's a common misconception that this facility is subsidized by a government agency and that is simply not the case. These surgeries and rehabilitations can be extremely expensive and the majority of our funds come from our own pockets."
Pappas has been working to create more accessibility to the facility and its cause by creating a blog for the center which can be found at www.wildliferehabilitationinutah.blogspot.com.
She would also like to remind the public that donations of any size are welcome at the center.
"We all want to see these protected and beautiful creatures stay around for our children and grandchildren to cherish," concluded Pappas. "But the honest truth of the matter is that if we don't step up as a society and community to help them survive no one else is going to."