WEEKEND: Two bald eagles, now healthy, about to be released into wild

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

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SEQUIM –– A pair of young bald eagles nursed back to health through the cooperation of three Olympic Peninsula bird-rescue organizations will be released back into the wild from a point at the Dungeness River on Saturday.

Cindy Daily of the nonprofit Discovery Bay Raptor Rehabilitation and Education Center took in the two injured eagles this summer. One was found in the backyard of Richard and Nancy Stanton in Nordland on July 30. The other was saved by a U.S. Marine fishing on the Quilcene River on Aug. 17.

“It’s been wonderful to watch both of them get back to health, and I can’t wait to see them both get to be back in the wild,” Daily said. “It’s the whole point of our existence.”

Daily, wife of Port Townsend Police Chief Conner Daily, has run the Discovery Bay raptor center since 2011.

She and the two other bird-rescue organizations who helped bring the birds back to health, as well as the people who found the injured eagles, will meet in the Greywolf Elementary School parking lot, 171 Carlsborg Road, at 1 p.m. Saturday.

From there, they will drive down toward the mouth of the Dungeness River to release the eagles.

The public is invited to watch.

When recovered, the birds were starving and riddled with parasites, Cindy Daily said.

“When a bird gets really down and their immune system isn’t in tiptop shop, then the parasites can really do some damage,” she said.

She figured the birds left their nest too early and then were abandoned by their mothers, who cared for the young eagles who stayed in the nest.

Daily credited Jaye Moore, director of the Northwest Raptor & Wildlife Center in Sequim, for helping her nurse the eagles up to the point they could begin training to be reintroduced into the wild.

The birds have been conditioning inside the 3,000-square-foot flight cage at West Sound Wildlife Shelter on Bainbridge Island to hone their flight skills enough to live free and hunt.

Inside, the eagles have been getting physical therapy from West Sound’s staff, who make sure they have the flying and hunting skills they will need.

“We want to make sure they go out and they can be 100 percent self-sufficient in the wild,” said Lisa Horn, executive director of West Sound.

Nathan Delapp, a U.S. Marine who had just finished his active duty, was fishing on the Quilcene River in August when he saw a young eagle timidly walking nearby.

He took out his cellphone to take a picture and noticed the bird was not escaping.

“Normally, eagles don’t just let them walk right up to you,” said Delapp, now a reserve duty mechanic in Tacoma who lives in Hood Canal.

He called the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to find out what he could do for the eagle. They directed him to Daily, who asked Delapp to catch the bird.

“I’d never caught a giant eagle before, but I figured I’d give it a shot,” Delapp said.

Daily told him to throw a towel or something over the eagle’s head and pick him up.

So Delapp took off his shirt and, after about 15 minutes of missed tosses, finally got it over the bird.

He tied his fishing pole to his backpack, picked up the eagle and began the 3-mile hike back up the riverbank to his car.

The trek took a bit longer than it should have, Delapp admitted, because his shirt fell off the bird’s head several times.

“I dropped him because he would turn his beak toward me, and I didn’t want to get bit by that thing,” he said.

Daily met him at his car and took the eagle back to her home to treat it.

Earlier in the summer, Daily received a call from the Stantons in Nordland about a distressed bird that was moving lethargically.

“So I went out and caught that one,” she said.

She found the eagle on the verge of starvation.

“He was in pretty bad shape. It’s just a miracle he pulled through so well,” Daily said.

Anyone coming into contact with an injured bird can phone Daily at 360-379-0802, who then will provide further instructions for care.

Those further west on the Peninsula should phone the Northwest Raptor & Wildlife Center at 360-681-2283.

For West Sound Wildlife, phone 206-855-9057.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: September 19. 2013 6:17PM
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