This eagle was found on the side of Highway 1 by an Abbotsford homeless man, and brought to the OWL Rehabilitation Society in Delta. Submitted photo

Abbotsford homeless man helps save eagle struck on Highway 1

OWL Rehab Society looking to reunite man with eagle if it is ultimately able to fly again

An Abbotsford homeless man is being commended by a bird rehabilitation centre for helping to save an eagle that was hit on Highway 1.

Trevor Sweezey said he was looking for lost items on the side of the highway when he came across the injured eagle, and attempted to hitchhike with the bird to get it to help. He was unable to get a ride, but police responded to a call and ultimately helped Sweezey get the bird to the Orphaned Wildlife (OWL) Rehabilitation Society in Delta.

Rob Hope, raptor care manager with OWL, said the group got the call from the Abbotsford Police Department Friday and they sent volunteer Gerry Powers to retrieve the eagle.

“Our volunteer picked (the eagle) up and brought it to the centre, and he has a broken right wing at the elbow,” Hope said, adding that it’s not uncommon to see eagles hit by vehicles.

“Depending if they’re fighting or how low they’re flying, a car may clear them, a pickup truck may clear them, but then if a big rig comes along, then of course he’s got that extra height, which can wail them. Sometimes they will go to the side of the road for food … so there’s a combination of why they would get hit.”

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Because of where the break in the wing occurred, Hope said it’s impossible to do surgery without causing more harm, and it’s only about a 50-50 chance that the bird will recover well enough to fly, depending on how the break heals.

But the eagle will be held at the centre in the meantime, where its wing is currently wrapped in what is called a “figure eight wrap” to secure it. Over the course of three to five weeks, the wing will remain wrapped up, and the eagle’s caregivers will “manipulate the wing periodically throughout the process.”

“What we’re hoping for is that that bone will calcify, and he’ll still have movement in that wing,” Hope said.

After that period, they’ll put the eagle in a larger flight cage to see if he is able to fly, “which is sort of the end for him.”

Once they are sure the bird can fly, Hope said they will release the bird, which he added was a younger bird – about two years old – and would not yet have eaglets to care for.

Powers said said if they do manage to keep the bird healthy and it is ultimately able to fly, he intends to bring Sweezey along for the eagle’s release.

It’s not the first time the OWL Rehab has gotten assistance from members of the Lower Mainland’s homeless communities, who are more often outside, travelling by foot or bicycle and in places like parks where you might find wildlife more frequently.

One homeless camp in Coquitlam got three owls for the rehabilitation centre, while a man near Stanley Park in Vancouver helped with a young eaglet, “and he even donated 20 cents of Canadian Tire money to us.”

On top of looking to reconnect Sweeney with the eagle if it fully rehabilitates, the volunteer who picked up the eagle from the homeless man is looking to give him $20 if he can track him down.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

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