Couple swoop in to save bald eagle

Shocked to find an injured, immature eagle on city’s north beach, Port Washington residents carry bird to safety, call experts

PINE VIEW WILDLIFE Rehabilitation Center Manager Kristen Bustamante showed off an immature bald eagle found on Port Washington’s north beach recently that is recovering from injuries suffered in a collision. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Mark Wente got a shock while he was walking on Port Washington’s north beach recently — an immature bald eagle that was obviously in distress was lying on the sand. 

The eagle, which Wente found on his afternoon walk on Feb. 16, was one of several who have been sighted along Port Washington’s coast recently.

“We’ve been watching the eagles as they cruise along the lake,” Wente’s wife Tad said. “We saw the adults and two other young ones.”

But this bird was obviously in distress, she said. 

“It was very sad,” she said. “He wasn’t standing. One wing went one way and the other one went another. His neck was bent backwards. I thought at first he had a broken neck.”

Mark Wente didn’t have his phone with him, so he quickly ran home. And as Tad called for help, Mark and his neighbors Pat and Jim Ruethling kept an eye on the beach. 

When they saw crows gathering around the eagle, Mark and his neighbors headed back to the beach to shoo them away from the eagle. 

“I called everywhere I could think of,” Tad said, including the Ozaukee Humane Society, Port police department and Pine View Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center. “Time was of the essence.”

But she had trouble reaching someone who could help, so she began researching what could be done for the bird.

Tad headed to the beach, and the group decided to move the eagle up the bluff. 

 “We thought that if we didn’t move him, he would be dead soon,” she said.

They carefully put a canvas grocery bag over its head, since Tad had read that this would calm the bird, and placed a blanket around its body, tucking its feet inside.

At one point, the bird clamped its talons around Mark’s fingers, but he had donned leather gloves that protected him, his wife said.

They carefully carried the bird up the bluff to their house, then placed it in an empty garbage cart to contain it, Tad said.

“He didn’t struggle much. You could tell he would rather not deal with us, but he was so weak,” she said. “We were all very worried about him.

“Luckily, Pine View called then. I told them I had an eagle in our garage.”

Within 45 minutes, Kristen Bustamante, the manager at Pine View, arrived. She placed the eagle in a large travel crate and brought him to the Town of Fredonia wildlife facility.

Jean Lord, executive director of the wildlife facility, said the bird’s feet were clenched tight, its wings were rigid and its head and neck were thrown back when it arrived. It was pale around the mouth and its vision was limited.

After much assessment, it was determined the bird was suffering from torticollis, a symptom of a head injury Lord said was likely suffered during a collision.

The eagle has undergone a significant amount of rehabilitation in the past week, she said, and is responding well.

On Wednesday, Feb. 28, the eagle was move dto a flight cage.

“The bird is now standing and taking nourishment on its own,” Lord said. 

“It’ll be a slow process, but we’re feeling positive and we’re hoping for a positive return to the wild.”

The Wentes, who have checked on the eagle since then, said they are heartened by its recovery.

“Some people said maybe he was diving for a fish and hit the ice,” Tad said. “We don’t know how long he was lying there. But we’re very glad he’s doing well. You don’t see that many eagles.”

The bald eagle is one of seven birds of prey that have been rescued by Pine View in the last three weeks.

“It’s been an interesting time,” Lord said. 

One of the birds, an adult rough-legged hawk, was injured at dusk Feb. 1 near Silver Beach with a significant injury to its wing, she said, adding they believe the bird flew into a vehicle.

The man who found the bird along the road called for help immediately and waited for Bustamante to arrive.

“The expediency with which he acted probably saved the bird’s life,” Lord said.

The hawk was otherwise in good physical shape, she said, but it suffered an unusual green stick fracture to its wing, close to the joint.

The bird underwent surgery, and is recovering, Lord said.

The other birds that have been rescued recently include two adult male great horned owls and three red-tailed hawks.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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