GLEN ELLYN – After a brush with danger, a bald eagle is on the mend at Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn.
The bird was brought to Willowbrook on Feb. 20, after being found in south suburban Oak Lawn with a bullet in its left wing, said Education Site Manager Sandy Fejt.
Its rescuer was Oak Lawn Animal Control Officer Barry Adamczyk, who said he received a call from a resident about an injured eagle in their neighbor’s yard.
Adamczyk said he was skeptical and thought the bird was likely a hawk. But when he arrived at the caller’s home, there was no denying what he saw perched on the fence.
“I was shocked,” he said. “I didn’t believe I was looking at a bald eagle.”
Catching the bird took mere minutes, as it could only fly a few feet off the ground with its injury.
“He didn’t put up a fight,” said Adamczyk, who has never encountered a bald eagle during his time working in animal control.
In addition to its broken wing, the eagle suffered internal trauma and was dehydrated and malnourished, most likely because it couldn’t fly or hunt after being shot, said Forest Preserve District of DuPage County Public Affairs Specialist Bonnie Olszewski.
The circumstances surrounding the shooting are unknown, she said, but Willowbrook has relayed information about the incident to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“We think it’s a pretty serious offense,” Fejt said.
Bald eagles are designated as a threatened species, she said, and not only is Oak Lawn not an open hunting space, the birds are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act, and therefore are never legal to hunt.
Illinois is home to more than 3,000 bald eagles during the winter months – more than any state except Alaska, according to Illinois’ official website.
“This is our nation’s emblem,” she said. “It’s hard to say what would motivate somebody to do that.”
The eagle underwent surgery Feb. 27, Olszlewski said, which went well. It will remain on pain medication and antibiotics to ensure its health in the coming weeks.
“He’s had a pretty good recovery,” Fejt said.
As the bird recuperates, it will transition through a series of increasingly larger enclosures into a more natural environment, Olszlewski said.
It also will work to regain its natural abilities at Willowbrook’s raptor flight facility, an outdoor rehabilitation area for injured raptors, she said.
Fejt projects the eagle will remain at Willowbrook for at least a month, but at no point will it be available to view publicly.
However, the center does have a bald eagle that is a permanent resident of the center and available for public observation, she said.
Fejt estimates Willowbrook has played host to four or five bald eagles in recent years.
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