Bald Eagle injured in New Albany draws widespread regional interest and support

Albany the Bald Eagle NEMiss.news
Albany the Bald Eagle, at the Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
January 27th, 2021     Featured News General News

 

An accident involving a bald eagle struck by a motor vehicle in New Albany on Thursday, Jan. 14, grew into a story with widespread regional interest.

The Union County E911 center received a call at 8:18 a.m. that morning saying what was thought to be a Bald Eagle had been struck near S&A Industries. The report said the vehicle struck the eagle while driving on Futorian Way on the west side of New Albany

Sheriff Jimmy Edwards told NEMiss.News he understood the injured eagle had been taken to DeSoto County by Steve Coleman, an officer with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. 

It turns out that the bird was indeed a Bald Eagle and was taken to Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation (MWR) in Lake Cormorant. The 26-year-old non-profit organization in DeSoto County cares for injured birds, as well as other animals.

“Since she came from New Albany we named her ‘Albany,’” said Debbie Crum, the assistant director of MWR.

A team of veterinarians determined that Albany had critical spinal injuries, but hoped she might survive and possibly recover once swelling went down.

“Debbie spent hours and hours caring for Albany, even sleeping on a cot in ICU beside the carrier to make sure the oxygen she rigged up worked properly and Albany was still breathing,” said Valery Elizabeth Smith, the director of Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation. “Needless to say she did not sleep that night. However, she had great help the next day from our avian volunteer Stephanie. Stephanie was an enormous help to Debbie and is always ready to jump in when needed.”

Memphis area news media learned of the injured eagle. WMC-TV in Memphis did a feature story, followed by another on WREG-TV.

“We had thousands of people following the story of our bird and her recovery. Everybody wanted to help,” Crum said. “People were fishing and hunting and they were bringing in fresh meat for Albany to eat. They were bringing it in already cut up ready for her to eat. There was a huge community effort. People raised $2,600. It was because the bird had just bought so many people in North Mississippi together.”

“It was a big deal for Northern Mississippi to be able to care for and do everything we could for the bird,” she said.

There was hope that following surgery the Bald Eagle would regain use of her legs and lower body, However, following a series of neurological tests, a panel of veterinarians determined that Albany would not be able to recover and return to life in the wild. The vets decided the most humane course was euthanasia.

Albany was euthanized Tuesday, Jan. 19.

If Albany had survived and been thought able to recover, she probably would have been sent to the American Eagle Foundation at Dollywood in Tennessee to regain her flight ability.

Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation serves more than 20 North Mississippi counties and has treated more than 500 patients this past year. It has state and federal permits to work with all protected species and cooperates with federal officials on rehabilitating them.

Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation does not have the required 100-foot flight cage for flight re-habilitation, although they plan to build a new facility that does and will accommodate all size birds of prey including eagles, osprey, Snowy Owls, Peregrine Falcons and Turkey Vultures.

MWR does, however, have one of the few devices in the area that tests for lead poisoning. The $2,700 instrument examines a bird’s blood for the metal, which is the primary cause of illness in eagles.

“They’re scavengers,” Smith said. “Even tiny fragments of lead can be deadly so we are doing a lot of education to get hunters to switch from lead to copper shot.” She added they support hunters, but want them to be aware that fishing weights can also be deadly when an eagle eats a fish with a sinker in it or a line attached. Eagles also may eat deer meat with shot in it.

“Lead is the main problem for Bald Eagles,” Smith said. “For hawks it is car strikes or gunshots (it is illegal to shoot hawks, but farmers apparently often do) and for owls it is car strikes.” Criminal penalties for deliberately killing a bald eagle can range up to $250,000 in fines. It is a violation of federal law to even possess eagle feathers or other body parts

Bald Eagles, the national bird of the United States since 1782, are becoming more common in Mississippi, especially in areas such as Sardis and Granada lakes. They are not as rare in this part of the country as many people think.

“You’ve actually get quite a few,” Crum said.

“Albany, the eagle that passed away was the mate of another, so I can guarantee there’s another out there. And we’re getting into nesting season when they lay their eggs. I can guarantee there are at least two or three other pairs there (in the New Albany area), she told NEMiss.News.”

“We get quite a few patients from New Albany,” Crum said. “People drive over with them to Olive Branch or to our office at Hernando.”

When they are able to recover, birds that are patients from Union County are brought back to Union County for release, and the same practice is used for birds from any other area.

The facility accepts donations and does not charge for its rescue operation.

The address is 9865 Green River Road, Lake Cormorant, MS 38641. You can contact them at 662-612-6455 (which also is their avian hotline) or wlrehab@earthlink.net.

Crum said they all were crushed that Albany could not recover. “But I guarantee she’s flying out there now, super high,” she said.

“Even if we can’t always give them the freedom of being back out in the wild, we can give them the freedom from pain and suffering,” Crum continued.

“For a few days [while we were caring for Albany] it didn’t matter who you were, who you voted for, where you worked. Everybody just came together for one common goal, which was hopes and prayers and good vibes for this eagle. It was kind of amazing how a bird could do that for the community,” she said.

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