Tribal member nurses bald eagle back to health

07.29.2011 Ron Karten People, Natural resources

By Barney Lerten

BEND - He's still not out of the woods, so to speak, but a badly injured bald eagle is still recovering well, a Bend vet said on July 15 - despite a scare two days earlier in which he had to perform mouth-to-beak CPR on the raptor, newly named "Patriot."

Two La Pine women found the bald eagle, apparently hit by a car, near Crane Prairie Reservoir in June. Three weeks later, about halfway through a hoped-for recovery period, the bird's fractured wing is healing, as is his dislocated elbow and wrist, said Tribal member Dr. Jeffrey Cooney of Bend Veterinary Clinic.

After a contest, the eagle has been named Patriot - quite fitting for America's national symbol. More than 20 names were submitted, from Spirit to Bend Franklin, and it was close. Patriot received the highest number of votes, Cooney said.

"He has gained 10 percent of his body weight and is eating fish like crazy," Cooney said. "His attitude is greatly improved, and he's starting to act like a normal, rambunctious eagle."

But there are still worrisome signs.

"The dislocated shoulder and his paralyzed right leg are his major problems right now," Cooney said.

Then there was the frightening moment during an exam and physical therapy when, under anesthesia, Patriot stopped breathing.

Cooney stepped in and performed "mouth to beak" resuscitation to get the bird breathing again.

Still, at this point, Cooney says he's not sure Patriot will ever be able to return to the wild.

And if he's unable to fully recover, Cooney said they could be forced to euthanize him, rather than continue living in pain.

"I kind of like the guy," Cooney said. "If he could get his foot back, a little better," the odds would improve markedly, thus a protective blue "bootie" that completed a red, white and blue outfit was only fitting.

But "his shoulder is really badly damaged," Cooney said. "It's not a surgical repair, so if he was going to live forever in pain from the shoulder injury, I'd have to euthanize him."

"If he could live, any facility (for raptors) would like to have him," Cooney said. "He was just hurt so bad."

"He is doing pretty well now," Cooney said when contacted on Monday, July 25. "It's a day-to-day event. We are waiting to see what happens with his shoulder and leg."

However, Cooney said, "Patriot will most likely not be able to be released into the wild."

Includes information from Summer Youth Employee Melissa Biery.