• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 8s

Oily the eagle flies free again

By Emily Carlson 9:21 PM January 9, 2014

He was one of the most difficult cases Bird TLC had ever seen, but left a mark on the center no bird has before

HAINES - Eagles are the symbol of freedom and they’re meant to soar in the wild, free from any restraints. Sometimes they run into trouble, however, and it’s usually at the hands of humans.

An eagle that was recently brought to an Anchorage rehabilitation center is one of the most difficult cases the Bird Treatment and Learning Center has ever seen. But he left a mark on the center no bird ever has before.

Tucked away in the pristine beauty of the Chilkat Valley is a remote place where eagles soar and people flock. Thanks to the latest salmon run in North America, every winter comes the largest gathering of bald eagles in the world.

Every November, Haines hosts a Bald Eagle Festival. This year is the 20th year, and the weeklong event culminates with an eagle release.

This year it’s extra special. Some of the people traveled more than 700 miles to watch a special bird fly back into the wild. Over the past 10 months, they fell in love with the eagle as they nursed him back to health.

At Bird TLC, the center sees about 800 birds every year. Their injuries range from broken wings to abandoned baby birds. But last February, a mystery arrived at their door. A bald eagle from Kodiak came in covered with some sort of sticky mess. The wildlife officer who found him thought it was oil.

“We used Dawn. You’ve seen the wildlife commercials, Dawn gets that stuff off,” said Heather Merewood of Bird TLC. “We gave him a nice Dawn bath and the water washed off clear.”

After a number of baths, the sticky stuff remained. Frustrated, Bird TLC clipped some of the bird’s feathers and sent them to a lab. It turned out the bird was covered in something humans thought was harmless to leave outside uncovered.

“I don’t know what happened with this guy, why he ended up in a bucket of linseed oil,” Merewood said. “Why there was a bucket of linseed oil sitting out? If there was a fish in it … I don’t know but he was covered from head to toe in what we think is linseed oil.”

It took several more baths for volunteers to wash bird 13-05 clean. Bird TLC sticks to numbers to keep emotions out of the equation.

“I think everybody gets attached to all of them a little bit, but this guy in particular cause he was the problem child,” Merewood said. “What’s going on? This isn’t fish oil, what’s going on with this guy?”

Then something happened that has never happened to a bird headed back to the wild at the rehabilitation center.

“You do get some birds where they have an interesting story and they end up with nicknames,” she said. “So yeah, this is Oily.”

Soon Oily was healthy enough to start flying again. Nine months later he was clean, molted and flying again. It was almost time to kick Oily out of the nest. Back in Haines, Oily’s most dedicated volunteers bid for the chance to release him back into the wild.

“Oily is a special bird,” said volunteer Cathy Loughlin. “But there were times when people thought that he may not be releasable.”

Loughlin traveled 775 miles and paid $200 to release Oily. She was nervous, and wondered if all the hard work would pay off. After months of rehab, was Oily strong enough to fly away?

In just seconds, Oily flapped his wings and flew away. For bird lovers, it was the perfect moment. They may never see Oily again, but volunteers know the bald eagle is back where he belongs: Soaring the sky with other eagles — a symbol of freedom back in his place.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Fur Rondy Hide and Horn auction set for March 1

    by Lauren Maxwell on Feb 26, 19:39

    Workers are preparing for an annual auction that benefits the Department of Fish and Game. The Hide and Horn Auction is a Fur Rendezvous tradition that features items confiscated by Alaska Wildlife Troopers, and offers them to the public. This year there are dozens of animal hides of nearly every kind, including a nine-foot brown […]

  • News

    U.S. intel official confirms identity of ‘Jihadi John’

    by CBS News/Associated Press on Feb 26, 19:00

    The knife-wielding masked ISIS militant seen in a number of beheading videos and dubbed “Jihadi John” has been named as Mohammed Emwazi, a London man with a college degree, a U.S. intelligence official confirmed to CBS News Thursday. Emwazi earned his degree from the University of Westminster, the official told CBS News. Both The Washington Post and the BBC reported Thursday […]

  • News

    Balancing the budget and safety: troopers face cutbacks

    by Bonney Bowman on Feb 26, 18:49

    It’s been just over a month since Governor Bill Walker’s State of the Budget speech, when he told Alaskans about state expenses being cut in the wake of declining oil revenues. Many agencies are already seeing cuts, but perhaps none more striking than those made to the Alaska State Troopers. Troopers department director Col. James Cockrell […]

  • Crime

    Man arrested after throwing drugs over Anchorage jail fence

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 26, 17:09

    A man was arrested Wednesday after authorities reported seeing him throw a bag of suspected contraband over a fence at the Anchorage Correctional Complex. Investigators with the Alaska State Troopers Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit reported seeing 28-year-old Kevin Sathre throw something over the fence of the south side yard of the jail around noon Wednesday. […]

  • Crime

    AST: 3 nabbed in Emmonak assault that leaves man with serious injuries

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 26, 15:58

    A man suffered “serious internal injuries” in an alcohol-fueled assault in the dry Western Alaska village of Emmonak, authorities say. According to an online dispatch from Alaska State Troopers, 23-year-old Doran Jennings, 21-year-old Jereith Jimmy and 23-year-old Karl Kelly had been drinking home-brew alcohol before they left the residence they were in, went next door and “assaulted […]

  • Lifestyle

    Facebook sets sights on suicide prevention with new feature

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 26, 15:42

    Facebook has teamed up with Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention and the University of Washington’s School of Social Work to add a new feature to the popular social media site that is designed to prevent suicide by helping friends speak up. Starting Wednesday, Facebook users can get help for friends who post suicidal or self-harming […]

  • News

    Regulators propose permanent definition of public place

    by Associated Press on Feb 26, 13:36

    A state board wants to make permanent the emergency regulation passed this week defining public places where marijuana can’t be smoked. When voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana in November, they prohibited smoking in public but did not define what a public place was. The state’s alcohol board, which is in charge of regulating marijuana for […]

  • DayBreak

    Local realtor talks 2015 housing market trends for Southcentral

    by Daybreak Staff on Feb 26, 12:46

    Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases you will ever make, but finding a home to buy in Anchorage can be tough. There are efforts underway to address the current gridlock, in which the demand for housing has been outpacing production. According to one local realtor, there’s been a shift in what homebuyers are […]