The opportunity to put a bald eagle in a new home doesn’t come along very often.
Tiffany Lane, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator with the Pontotoc County Wildlife Care organization, and her team got their chance Wednesday night.
An Oklahoma game warden contacted Lane to say that a property owner in southeast Oklahoma had reported a downed oak tree with an active bald eagle’s nest, Lane said Friday. The owner went to check on the tree and discovered a live baby eagle on the ground.
After speaking with Lane the first time, the warden went out to the property to see what was going on, rescued the baby eagle and called Lane again.
“They (wardens) don’t deal with rehabilitation,” Lane said. “They deal with the laws concerning that and protecting them and that sort of thing. But when it comes to rehabilitation, that’s what we’re for.”
Lane, who was the closest rehabilitator in the area, told the warden that the bird should be assessed by a qualified wildlife veterinarian.
Thursday morning, Lane picked up the baby eagle and took it the Arlington Animal Clinic, where it was examined by veterinarians Stephanie Rollins and Faye Lorezsonn. The assessment showed that the bird — who was about four months old — had not been injured in the fall.
Lane said if the baby eagle had been hurt, she would have had two options: Either take it to a federally licensed rehabilitation facility or try to put it back with its parents.
“That being said, any dependent baby of any species always has its best chance of survival with its parents, regardless,” she said. “That being said, the goal then becomes reunify.”
Lane said the parent birds have lived on the same property for more than 10 years and have built their nests in three or four different trees. But their current tree and nest were no longer available, so Lane and the rest of the team had to decide where to put their new home.
Lane, volunteer Steve Gordon and Gordon’s family met with the property owners and surveyed the trees where the birds had nested in the past. Then Lane and Gordon used some of the material from the old nest to build a new one, which would be placed in an oak tree about 40 yards away from the original tree.
Gordon trimmed the tree to fit the new nest. Then he built a platform for the nest, put the platform in place and placed the nest. He also helped put the baby bird in its new home.
“Mind you, the whole time this is going on, mom and dad are within 100 yards of us,” Lane said. “They watch us the entire time that we’re there. They’re flying around. They’re watching the whole process, that sort of thing.
“Which was encouraging because obviously, they see what we’re doing. They know the baby’s there.”
Lane said the bird’s parents did not try to interfere with the renesting effort, and the baby eagle offered little resistance.
Once the baby eagle was placed in the nest, Lane and the rest of the group backed off to let the bird settle in. The bird seemed happy in its new home and started crying for its parents.
Lane said she checked with the property owners Friday morning, and they reported that the baby was fine and the parents were flying around the tree.
“At this point, as far as we know, everything was successful. Everything is good,” Lane said. “Obviously if that changes, we’ll get a phone call and plans will change.”