MARS Wildlife Rescue has taken in three ‘oiled’ eagles in the last week. The source of the oil that has harmed these raptors remains a mystery.
The injured birds have been brought to MARS new hospital at Merville after being rescued from the water near Port Hardy and Malcolm Island.
“These eagles could fly even after being oiled,” says MARS president Warren Warttig. “But they may not have been able to fly far and fell into the ocean, or when they swooped down to catch a fish, they became waterlogged.”
When a bird gets oil on its feathers, it can’t clean itself and they can lose their natural flotation since the bird is unable to shed water. The oil may also prevent the bird from flying very far. Rehabbing the birds is labor intensive requiring three people to care for and feed them. When these eagles arrive at the MARS hospital, they must be cleaned and then checked to ensure they have no other injuries before they can be released again to the wild.
“Two of the eagles we received had a brood patch, meaning that the bird had young in nest,” says Warttig. “Without two parents, the chances of the eaglets surviving are low.”
MARS Wildlife Rescue has contacted Conservation Officers to alert them to the situation and to initiate an investigation to find the source of the oil.
“This is very suspicious. We rarely see situations such as this,” says Reg Westcott, animal care supervisor. “Because they can fly, it is difficult to pinpoint the source of the oil. The eagles were found in the open ocean area, and we are worried about how many injured eagles may have been missed.”
“This is a busy time of year at MARS,” notes Pearl McKenzie, vice president. “Caring for these eagles takes a lot of resources and we have just moved into our new hospital so looking after these birds while setting up the new facility has been a stretch.” One of the eagles has been released and another is recovering and will soon be released to the wild. The third eagle did not survive.
MARS, a licensed and regulated facility, provides rescue, rehabilitation, recovery and release for injured and orphaned wildlife in central and northern Vancouver Island. With a caseload that has grown to 700 per year, this volunteer-powered, donor funded organization has opened a new wildlife hospital and recovery centre in the Comox Valley.