Gordon Sasa has been up bigger trees, but he’s never had to wrangle large predatory birds until he climbed a Fort Langley cottonwood last week.
On Thursday, Aug. 15, Sasa was finishing up some training at BC Plant Health Care in Cloverdale, when a last minute emergency call came in, he said.
They were being asked to help rescue an eagle from a large, dead cottonwood just off Allard Crescent near the Derby Reach area.
A Maple Ridge resident had been the first to spot the stranded young female bald eagle, and called the Orphaned Wildlife Rescue Society (OWLS) of Delta.
They came out but didn’t have the capability to get up the tree themselves. They started calling local arbourists, and soon the crew with Saas was on the scene at Derby Reach Regional Park.
“I don’t know exactly how it got hooked,” said Sasa.
By the time he and his coworkers go there, they were told the eagle had been trapped for about 24 hours. It was alive, but a twisted, sharp branch had pierced one wing.
“It was definitely looking exhausted, for sure,” Sasa said.
The workers from OWLS gave Sasa a large net, and he very slowly headed up the tree.
“I had to be really cautious, because that tree is stone dead,” said Sasa.
He moved up the tree, using the back of a handsaw to tap on the tree each time he moved up. Sasa was listening to the sound and making sure the tree seemed solid with every meter he ascended.
Based on the length of rope he used during his ascent, the tree was 80 feet tall, Sasa said.
Sasa has been up a lot of trees, but he got nervous when he got near the agitated eagle.
“We were obviously both afraid of one another,” said Sasa.
He used the net, on the end of a five foot pole, first scooping up the eagle’s free wing, then it’s feet, before scooping it up and pushing it up and off the branch.
The eagle was fairly calm once it was in the net, and Sasa descended the tree with the bird over his shoulder.
At the bottom of the tree, he turned it over to the OWLS volunteers.
Although crews from BC Plant Health Care have rescued a few cats, and Sasa was once called to chase a raccoon off a rooftop, this is their first eagle.
“It’s very unusual for us,” said Sasa.
The young eagle has now had surgery and it’s about 50-50 whether it will ever be able to fly again, according to Rob Hope of OWLS.
The workers and volunteers there are trying to keep the wing moist so it can heal properly, and will do rehab work with the bird. Hopefully it will be released into the wild again.
As for Sasa’s climb to get the bird, Hope was impressed.
“We really appreciate it, the bird especially appreciates it,” he said. “Without Gordon, this bird wouldn’t have had a chance.”
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