Divers rescue AK eagle off California

Posted: Wednesday, October 09, 2002

CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK, Calif. - A bald eagle trying desperately to stay afloat amid the waves of the Pacific Ocean was rescued by two divers who saw the bird about to go under.

The Alaska-born eagle, set free last month as part of an effort to reintroduce the species to the Channel Islands, is recovering at the Ojai Raptor Center, said Patty Perry, who works at the nonprofit facility.

The 4-month-old female was malnourished and dehydrated last week when Mark Ferguson spotted it floundering eight miles off Santa Cruz Island, about 70 miles west of Los Angeles.

"We saw something in the water and sea gulls were circling, so we went over to take a look," said Ferguson. "It looked like it was using its wing to do a breaststroke. I could see the transmitter attached to its back."

After some debate, Ferguson and his friend maneuvered their boat close, and Ferguson grabbed the eagle by the tail.

"I was afraid of getting scraped by its claws but it looked pretty exhausted," Ferguson said.

At the Ojai Raptor Center, the bird has been fed fish and rodents and given electrolytes to rehydrate it. Perry said it looked like she hadn't eaten for three weeks.

"She was in very critical condition when she got here," Perry said.

The bird will likely be put in a nesting box for observation and feeding.

A dozen eagles have been released in the area this year, and another 12 are to expected to be freed each year for the next five years.

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