Bald eagle caught in fur trap in Franklin County may never be able to return to the wild

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HANOVER, Pa. - A bald eagle that was found injured after getting caught in a fur trap is being nursed back to health.

Sometime Saturday afternoon, Wendy Looker, a wildlife rehabilitator with Rehabitat, got a call from someone saying they spotted the eagle in a yard in Franklin County.

"This is not only horrible, it's infuriating," she said. "An open bait, illegal leg hold trap is avoidable."

The eagle was apparently caught in the fur trap and managed to free itself, but lost a talon on each foot in the process.

"This bird ripped itself out of that leg hold trap after digging its beak in the mud for probably several days, starving for several days, mud all over the wingtips for several days, and walked to a neighbor's house," she said.

She retrieved the eagle, and ever since, has been working with Dr. Ann Pettigrew at Leader Heights Animal Hospital to help the eagle recover.

The eagle appears to be a young one, probably born sometime earlier this year. The rescuers think that due to the bird's size, their inability to determine its gender at this stage of its life, and that it still has a brown head (bald eagles develop white heads once they reach adulthood).

Because of its injuries, it is unlikely that the eagle will be able to return to the wild, because the missing talons enable it to hunt on its own, Looker said.

"You can see why this bird would not do so well," Pettigrew said. "They really depend on all their talons to hold down food and to capture fish, which is their main diet."

Instead, the women are hoping to transfer the eagle to a sanctuary in Tennessee in order to avoid euthanizing it.

"There's no sense sending a bird out that's going to be compromised," Looker said. "It's just too hard."

The Game Commission is investigating the case to find out whether the fur trap was placed illegally, and if so, who placed it.

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