A Golden Eagle is back home in the skies above Kootenay Lake after an effort to save it from lead poisoning.
The B.C. Conservation Officer Service posted a video Tuesday on Facebook of the eagle’s release from captivity.
The female raptor was spotted on Feb. 19 near Woodbury north of Nelson on the side of the lake by Evan MacDonald and Dan Britten.
The pair brought the eagle to Nelson Animal Hospital, where it was treated for two days before being flown to the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL) in Delta.
Nelson veterinarian Leanne Sackney, who has experience working with raptors, said the bird had no signs of injury but was weak and not moving. That quickly changed.
“An eagle can be a little intimidating,” said Sackney. “They are great big birds and even just the couple days we had her she got quite a bit stronger, so I was grateful there is a rehab place that is trained for treating and caring for them.”
Sackney said blood tests showed the eagle was suffering from lead poisoning, which she added can be common in wildlife at this time of year when some hunters use lead shot or fishers have lead sinker weights.
“The [person] at OWL told me a piece of lead the size of a grain of rice can poison an eagle, and fairly quickly apparently.”
When the bird was healthy, it was returned to the Kootenays and released near the same spot it was found.
Conservation officer Nathan Smienk was among the small group assisting with the release. Smienk said he brought his family along to witness the event. Only moments after the eagle flew away from its cage it landed on a nearby rock and was joined by another Golden Eagle.
“I grew up here and it’s one of those things I don’t remember seeing as a kid and now they are starting to make a come back,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Sackney credited MacDonald and Britten for saving the eagle’s life.
“The really cool thing is these guys who cared enough to stop and pick up this large, intimidating bird,” she said. “There’s good people out there.”