Mass Wildlife's Dick Turner holds an immature bald eagle that was found dehydrated in Onset on Tuesday morning. Onset had a surprise and very symbolic visitor on Election Day: a bald eagle!
Discovered by Onset resident Dick Wheeler and his dog while on their early morning stroll, the 1 1/2-year-old female bald eagle was found in distress at the edge of the parking lot at Shell Point.
The bird (which was mottled brown, too young to develop the characteristic adult plumage of white head and tail) couldn't move when approached. So Wheeler, who had rehabilitated hawks years ago, threw his vest over the raptor and carried it home with him as he ran to call Animal Control.
The bird was not pleased, which it demonstrated by stabbing Wheeler through the hand with its inch-and-a-half-long talons.
"It's not even eight o'clock, and I'm sitting here with the talons of a bald eagle in my hand," said Wheeler, after remarking that it was "not how I expected to start my day."
It was not how Wheeler's wife Sandra expected to start her day either. She was in the shower when her husband started yelling for help. She jumped out and, while soaking wet and uncovered, grabbed the eagle's leg with both hands and pulled.
Meanwhile, Wareham Animal Control Officer Carlston Wood arrived at work to find a message from Wheeler on the answering machine. He called Dick Turner from Mass Wildlife who called friend and former colleague Joe Comick and they raced to pick up the bird.
They found a bizarre scene: contractor Mark Stafford, who was working on the Wheeler's kitchen, was guarding an enormous brown bird with a vest over its head, while Sandra Wheeler (now dressed) tried to stop her husband's bleeding.
"I've never shown up at a job and been greeted by a bald eagle," Stafford exclaimed. "It was pretty neat, actually."
The bird was put into an animal carrier and brought to Turner's office at the Mass Wildlife deer tagging station on Red Brook Road. Biologist and raptor expert Tom French soon arrived from Westboro, took one look at the bird, and headed to Tufts Veterinary Hospital to treat it for severe dehydration.
Turner said that they believed the bird was a 1-1/2-year-old female. He couldn't be sure whether the bird was from the area - there are two active nests in the region whose chicks are banded each year, and Turner said he couldn't feel any bands when he handled the bird...but he, understandably, didn't want to get his face too close to the eagle's talons after Wheeler's experience!
French reported from Tufts that the bird will live, but it has several injuries which will prevent it from being released back into the wild. The eagle was blind in its left eye (if you look closely, you can see there is no dark pupil) and the radius of its right-wing was broken. It was also missing a talon (not the one the Wheeler found!)
Wheeler's prognosis was better. He was treated at Tobey Hospital and said that the solution used to clean the cut "smarted a little." He received a tetanus shot and will be on pills for a few days. He was in good spirits, however.
"I never got to hug an eagle until I turned 80!," he reported. "It was worth the wait."
That eagle hugged YOU Dick!!
First rings, then birds, what's next?
Perhaps you will succeed in my hero Diogenes's quest...you may not even need a lamp in Onset!
Very Brave, but knowing Mr. Wheeler, this is exactly what I would expect him to do. I hope Dick heals soon. Oh, the memories he must have.
BP: When I get a little older I'm going to write a book, and I'm going to title it: "It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time."
I can't say enough about the response of the folks at Tobey. We are one lucky town to have that facility in our midst.
I'm also indebted to our neighbor,Martha McGuire, who suggested that there's a pain killer made from grapes.
Wow! What a great suggestion! It's working ! !