Police Officer Spots Bald Eagle Struggling to Fly, Risks His Life to Ensure Her Safety

Sometimes, a peek into the back of a police car can give some surprises, and that is exactly what happened with a cop car in Oregon. A bald eagle had to hitch a ride in the back of Sergeant First Class (SFC) Randall Hand’s official police car one day, which might have been a surprise for onlookers.

SFC Hand responded to a call for help from Beatty, Oregon, where a man had seen a bald eagle struggling in a field. When SFC Hand arrived, he saw the eagle trying to rest in some shade. Something was hindering her attempts to fly. Thankfully, SFC Hand has some experience in the field, making him perfect for this call.

“I served approximately five years as a wildlife biologist prior to my work with the Oregon State Police,” SFC Hand said. “While working as a biologist, I was trained on the safe capture and handling of all types of wildlife native to Oregon, some of the training was for the safe handling of raptors.” SFC Hand approached the bird after pulling out a coat from his car. “Flightless raptors are actually fairly easily caught with the use of only a blanket or coat,” he said.

If they feel threatened, eagles try to defend themselves by rolling onto their backs and attacking with their sharp talons. “Once on the back, I toss or drop a blanket or coat on the talons and the bird will grab hold,” SFC Hand said. “I then carefully maneuver the bird upright and gain control of both wings with one hand while carefully gaining control of the legs (above the talons) with the other hand … In this case, the eagle did as was expected and took hold of a coat.”

It was going alright, but the wild bald eagle kept resisting SFC Hand’s efforts to help her. “This particular eagle was quite strong and was not pleased at all,” SFC Hand said. “I needed to keep the bird at arm’s length until returning to my patrol vehicle.”

Without wasting any more time, the officer needed find the best way to bring the bird to get the help she needed. “Unfortunately, my car is built to handle human occupants,” SFC Hand said. “I was concerned this bird may damage herself by attempting to get out.”

But he kept a close eye on her even while she was in the backseat. “She did try [to get out] for about three to five seconds before settling onto the seat belts as a perch,” he said. “That is where she rode all the way to the rehabilitator.” The eagle was thoroughly examined at Badger Run Wildlife Rehab (BRWR) in Klamath Falls, where they discovered that something was wrong with her wing: She had tissue damage in one shoulder, which needed physical therapy to get better.

“She is doing well, eating voraciously,” Liz Burton, animal care coordinator for BRWR, said. “She has extensive soft tissue damage and that takes a lot of time to heal.” Because of this, it’s uncertain whether she’ll be strong enough to return to the wild. “We won’t know for several weeks, possibly months.” If the eagle doesn’t get strong enough to be set free into the wild, she may be adopted by a native tribe or she will stay at BRWR as one of the wildlife ambassadors.

But no matter what might be in the future for this eagle, she sure is lucky to be alive. Who knows what could have happened to her if it weren’t for this brave officer?

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