As a wildlife rehabilitation centre, BC SPCA Wild ARC often sees animals arriving in need of help as the result of living in close proximity to humans – they might be hit by cars, caught by free-roaming outdoor cats, or strike windows. Sometimes, however, patients arrive with injuries that they acquired a little more ‘naturally.’ For example, breeding season brings with it a high number of disputes over mates or territory, and not everyone escapes these altercations unscathed.
Bald Eagles are notorious for their determined defence of their nesting territory or food resources. During the winter it is important for them to defend prime hunting grounds, perches, or roosting sites, while in the spring they are defending their nest and young. The typical territory of a pair of nesting Bald Eagles is one to two square kilometres, and both male and female eagles will challenge perceived interlopers.
This challenge can be as simple as vocalizations, threatening head and wing motions, or circling flight. If these gestures aren’t enough to ward off the new arrivals, things can sometimes get a little more physical. Eagles will charge each other mid-flight with talons extended and attempt to strike their opponents. Often these encounters are aborted before contact is made, but sometimes an eagle’s sharp talons can cause puncture wounds and other injuries.
One such situation resulted in a patient arriving at Wild ARC this season in need of treatment. A female Bald Eagle who was obviously not the victor in a tangle with another eagle was found down on the ground in a local backyard. She had multiple puncture wounds on her legs and feet, bruising on her shoulder, and a deep wound inside her beak.
She required several surgeries to make sure all the wounds were closed and healing well – her legs healed quickly, but the more serious injury to her beak needed more substantial treatment. Several weeks after she arrived at the centre, she was able to move out to Wild ARC’s large Flight Pen, where she is currently stretching her wings and rebuilding her stamina in preparation for her return to the wild.
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.