Ohio hunters save sickly bald eagle

Benjamin Duer

Hunting comes with the expectation that you might encounter a woodland critter or two.

But you might not expect our nation’s symbol to drop from the sky like a brick and nearly clunk you in the head.

That’s exactly what happened to Marshall Weinberg when he and his in-laws went deer hunting with muzzle rifles this past winter.

“I heard a crash. I thought a tree was coming down,” Weinberg recalled.

It wasn’t a tree. It was a bald eagle with a wing span approaching 7 feet.

And it landed less than 20 yards from Weinberg, who hid behind a bush and watched the eagle try to get on its feet.

“It seemed dazed and confused,” he said.

The bird’s demeanor didn’t improve. It didn’t fly away. It rarely moved. That bird looked “drunk,” Weinberg said.

Turns out, the eagle had a case of poisoning.

It’s a alive today thanks to the unusual effort of Weinberg and his fellow hunters.

Saving an eagle

Laura Jordan, executive director of the Medina Raptor Center, said the eagle ate a duck or fish with some lead pellets inside it and got sick.

The bird has spent the last few months at the Raptor Center recovering from lead exposure. The bird could be released back into the wild soon.

Five men — Weinberg, Tom Kimmins Sr., Tom Kimmins Jr., Tim Decker and Mike Jones — were behind the rescue. Jordan praised the group for saving the creature.

She said the bird is “one of the largest eagles I’ve ever worked with” and could have been passing through Ohio from the north when it got sick.

Bald eagles are larger in the northern part of the U.S. and in Canada than in the south.

Jordan said this eagle weighs 13 pounds and has a wingspan of up to 61⁄2 feet, making it a tough catch.

How did they catch it?

“It’s not like catching mice,” said Weinberg’s brother-in-law, Tom Kimmins Jr., who managed to corral the bird with a barrel.

The bird landed on property owned by Weinberg’s father-in-law, Tom Kimmins Sr., near Wilmot.

“The claws were as big as your hand,” Weinberg said.

It took the men two tries to grab the bird.

Kimmins Jr. said the first time he approached the eagle, it hissed at him and began running in a circle.

But it also ran into a brush pile, giving the guys a second chance.

Kimmins Jr. said he put the barrel over the bird and tucked its large wings inside the barrel to secure it.

He credits a naturalist at the Wilderness Center and Jordan for helping them figure out how to capture the bird.

Jordan said she anticipates releasing the eagle in the area that it was found. If so, its rescuers might hold a party.

“We would hope they take it back to the general area,” Kimmins Jr. said.

About bald eagles

Name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Status: No longer an endangered species but still protected by federal law.

Color: Feathers born light gray. Turn dark brown before they exit the nest at 12 weeks. Distinctive white head does not appear until it is 4 or 5 years old.

Size: 29 to 42 inches long, weighing 7 to 15 pounds; wing span of 6 to 8 feet.

Lifespan: Up to 40 years in the wild; longer in captivity. Reside also in Canada.

Food: Eats mostly fish, but also dines on small animals — including ducks and turtles.

Population: Has increased from roughly 487 breeding pairs in 1963 to an estimated 9,789 in the lower 48 states. In the early 1700s, there were 300,000 to 500,000 birds in the U.S.

Symbolism: In 1782, the Second Continental Congress of the U.S. declared the bald eagle as the national emblem. Founders wanted a species unique to North America.

Sources: Department of the Interior, American Eagle Foundation