FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — After watching the strange behavior of a youngster, residents on the Forest Highlands golf course decided to make a call for help.
But it wasn’t a human they were worried about. It was a young bald eagle.
And the Arizona Game and Fish Department took care of the problem.
According to Raptor management coordinator Kenneth “Tuk” Jacobson, the eaglet had gotten itself out of the nest atop a ponderosa pine and was perched on a lower branch of the same tree.
It appeared to be near fledgling age — not quite ready to fly, but not in any danger either.
Jacobson said adult eagles will continue to feed juveniles outside the nest and this one was in a good spot high in the tree. Jacobson asked the calling residents to monitor the bird.
Twelve days passed before residents called Game and Fish officials to say the young eagle flapped down from the nest tree, beelined to a nearby gold course water fixture and was standing at the edge of the pond drinking water.
Jacobson suspected that over the 12 days that passed, the eaglet may have experienced some disciplinary action from its parents.
When young eagles stay away from the nest for too long, he said parents will feed them a little less to encourage them to move to places that the adults want them to be.
Young eagles get all their water from the food they eat, so as temperatures soared over 80 degrees multiple times in the last few weeks, the temptation of the golf course water fixture may have become too much for the thirsty eaglet.
Trouble was, the eagle still hadn’t fully fledged. It got down to the ground and quenched its thirst in the pond but couldn’t fly back to safety.
“At that point, we’re concerned about coyotes and other ground predators being able to get to the bird and make an easy meal out of it,” Jacobson said.
He went out to the location and caught the bird — which turned out to be female — banded her and prepared to return her to the nest. Normally, someone like Jacobson might climb the tree to a return a bird to the nest, but this nest happened to be within a man-made box originally intended for osprey nests.
Jacobson called for aid from an unlikely partner — a utility company.
Some 35,000 miles of Arizona Public Service power lines in the state are properly outfitted with bird guard so they can perch and nest safely.
APS assists Game and Fish every year with a bald eagle survey.
Jacobson called APS to see if they could assist with a large bucket truck to lift him and the eaglet up to the nest atop a very tall tree.
The utility company had a 70-foot bucket truck in the area that had been deployed to help evaluate damage from the recent wildfire.
While waiting for the bucket truck, Jacobson put a hood over the eagle to simulate darkness and help calm the bird.
Jacobson left the eagle with a parting gift, putting some fish in the nest.
Game and Fish officials said the rescued young eagle now is fully fledged and flying around the golf course.
“In 1978 we only had about 12 bald eagle territories across the entire state,” Jacobson said. “As of this year, we’re up to 95. We’re definitely seeing the bald eagle breeding population in Arizona grow well and respond well to all the conservation and management efforts that we put into it.”