A raptor rehabilitation group is looking for an Abbotsford homeless man who helped save an eagle after it was hit by a vehicle on Highway 1.
Rob Hope, raptor care manager with the Orphaned Wildlife (OWL) Rehabilitation Society in Delta, said the group got a call from the Abbotsford Police Department Friday saying they had a man with an eagle on the side of Highway 1 wrapped in a jacket.
“So we sent a volunteer out while the officers waited with the gentleman. Our volunteer picked him 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.”
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 the wing. 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.
It’s in that moment, though, when they look to release the eagle, that the OWL Rehab is hoping to contact the homeless man who found the bird on the side of Highway 1. Hope said if they do manage to keep the bird healthy and it is ultimately able to fly, they would like to reunite the man, named Trevor Sweeney, with the eagle for the release.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t have a phone, so we want … if somebody knows him to give us a call so he can check up on the bird,” Hope said.
“He was nice enough to stop his bike and pick it up off the highway, which was really nice of him.”
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 and in places like parks where you might find wildlife more easily.
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.