is an old fable concerning a young girl walking along
a storm-strewn beach throwing stranded sea stars
back into the ocean. Informed of the futility of
her actions, she tosses another star into the ocean
and proclaims, “Not for that one.”
This attitude may also be the mantra of the modern
day wildlife rehabilitator. Injuries, disease, malnutrition,
poisoning, and shootings are just some of the problems
that wildlife, especially birds of prey, have to contend
with every day. Though some injuries may not be so
great unto themselves, they can limit a bird’s
ability to forage, care for or protect itself. In a
weakened condition, the likelihood of survival is minimal.
If the animal is lucky, it will be transported to a
nearby wildlife rehabilitation center.
And though death is a part of the natural cycle, we
humans take exception to just standing on the sidelines
and doing nothing. Our interventions are borne from
a desire to care for all things wild, even when the
odds against survival suggest a withdrawal.
Well, such was the fate of a golden eagle, found in
the Cisco Desert last fall. Unable to fly, suffering
a leg/foot injury, and dying of malnutrition, this
golden eagle was captured and taken to the Second Chance
Wildlife Rehabilitation center in Price, Utah.
Petrie, as this golden was nicknamed, was covered with
lice and in poor shape. After an examination, his leg
and foot injury revealed swelling but no broken bones.
Debbie Pappas, the licensed rehabilitator who owns
the center, treated his injury with antibiotics and
anti-inflammatory drugs. Fed a regular diet, Petrie’s
health improved, and after 3 ½ months of recuperation,
he was ready to return to the wild.
Though Petrie came from the Cisco Desert, and often
rehabilitated birds are returned to their found locations,
the decision to release Petrie in Moab was a good one.
Though he would be released in a different territory
than the Cisco Desert, the Moab release would be close
enough, and one that could be witnessed by the public.
Pappus contacted the owners of the Sunset Grill in
Moab. This restaurant, which was once the home of Charlie
Steen, is perched high on the east bench of Moab. The
owners were delighted to host Petrie’s release.
On a wintry December day, over fifty people were in
attendance at the release. With a chorus of “oohs” and “ahs”,
Petrie was given a gentle toss into the winds of freedom.
He flew but a short distance and perched atop a rocky
outcrop. Perhaps he landed to get stock of his new
situation or to shake off the touch of humans, no matter
how loving their hands were. Taking a moment to assess
his situation, Petrie looked out over the valley and
thought the thoughts that only a wild golden eagle
Though this release ended in success, accidental or
deliberate golden eagle fatalities far outweigh these
rehabilitations. Poisoning, shooting, electrocutions,
collisions with vehicles, and disease are factors that
contribute to many eagle deaths. Natural mortality
occurs, as birds succumb to old age, malnutrition and
injuries, but it is the human-induced ones that are
the hardest to accept.
Fortunately, there are rehabilitators like Debbie Pappus
who spend their time and finances helping injured wildlife
return to health. Their rewards are through seeing
their patients taking that first step or flight to
a second chance at life.
And as Petrie took his leave of the gathered crowd
it would have been fitting for someone to say, “Not
for that one.”
Thanks to Janine Pyrek for her image of Petrie. Contributions
for or inquiries of the Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation
may be directed to Debbie Pappas at 435-637-7055.
Golden Eagle (Janine