It was one of the most unusual animal rescues Jill Laviolette had ever attempted.
The member of northern Vancouver Island’s Tri-Port Wild Response Team had accomplished about 10 animal rescues and attempted about 25 when she received a call from her niece at about 9:15 p.m. May 9.
Two eagles had apparently locked talons and were stuck together. Another eagle dove at them to intercept, sending the locked pair flying — one them on a direct path into the large window of a house in Port Hardy.
The eagle crashed through the window and into a sunroom. Laviolette was in bed resting when she got the call to come help.
“I had to get myself mentally prepared, gather a large kennel that we had on hand from a donation by the lovely Sandra Boyd, and gather my big leather gloves and a few sheets,” she said. They loaded the gear, drove to the house and were let inside.
Laviolette said it was at this point her adrenaline started racing. She had to stop and reach for an almost meditative state to calm her heart rate and breathing.
“If I go into a rescue smelling of adrenaline and endorphins, it’s much harder for the bird as it goes into survival mode and wants to fight me off or get away from me,” she explained.
She walked through the broken glass toward the eagle. She could tell it was in rough shape as it rested on its belly.
“As soon as I threw a sheet on him, he popped up and tried to fly back into the window,” she said. “He then turned to fly at me. I had to spook him and corner him to be able to throw the sheet over him and grab him in such a way that he wouldn’t hurt me and I wouldn’t hurt him.”
Her attempt was successful. The kennel was brought over and opened, and she was able to maneuver the eagle into it.
“Everyone was safe and the teenagers helped me carry the kennel out to the truck. The eagle stayed in the kennel in my downstairs bathroom all night as I couldn’t access our usual eagle holding location.”
From there, Merilee Tognela ended up driving the eagle about three hours down-Island to the Comox Valley’s MARS Wildlife Rescue Hospital.
“Usually she has other birds, bunnies, cats with her, but this time it was just the one eagle,” said Laviolette. “She is an absolute powerhouse and unsung hero when it comes to transportation of injured wildlife.”
Laviolette added she hopes the eagle is healthy and will be able to be rehabilitated and released in the near future.
According to Laviolette, while the rescue itself was highly unusual, what led to it was not. During mating season eagles will often lock together and fall due to one of two reasons, mating or territorial fighting.
“It’s known as the ‘death spiral’ as it usually ends badly for one if not both eagles,” she added.
Laviolette advised people to call their local authorities if they see an animal in distress.
“We have a better chance of a successful rescue if someone can keep eyes on the animal until help arrives. Birds while injured in the wilderness will not stay in one spot and will tunnel through the underbrush very quickly.
“I have never experienced a bird or wildlife trapped in a house or building, which made this very different and slightly easier.”