Eagle Rescue on Ill. Co-op LinesBy Victoria A. Rocha | ECT Staff Writer Published: July 29th, 2013
Larry Joe Keller is used to seeing bald eagles soaring through the skies while on line patrol. So when he saw the national treasure, skinny and limp on the side of a highway, he knew something was not right.
The young bald eagle was alive—but just barely.
“Its feathers hadn’t turned white yet, and he had tucked his head under its wings. It was evident he was hurt. Usually, when eagles see people, they fly off,” said Keller, a utility serviceman at Dongola, Ill.-based Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative.
Keller’s kind heart and quick thinking give the story a happy ending. Looking for help, he made two phone calls, one to the state natural resources department and another to a local wildlife rehab group.
The group, Free Again Wildlife Rehabilitation, advised Keller to contain the bird to prevent it from wandering onto the highway.
Teamwork also played a contributing role in the rescue. “I drove up the road to help a member with a service problem, and I told her about the eagle, and she immediately walked up her driveway to find a cage,” Keller recalled.
“There was no way I was going to leave him on the side of the road,” said the member, Mary Hanks, who, along with a contractor working on her house, placed the ailing bird into a dog carrier.
“It was too weak to put up a fight,” said Hanks. “But at one point it spread its wings. It was amazing to see. You don’t come across this every day. I’m very glad my contractor was there and the SIEC lineman took the time to help save the eagle.”
The rescue “was an effort on everyone’s part,” said Keller who had to return to work before someone from the wildlife center arrived. “Each one took over when the other couldn’t go further.”
X-rays of the two-year-old eagle revealed no broken bones, but its condition “is still touch and go,” said Beverly Shofstall, the wildlife group’s director. “He’s eating like a horse and getting stronger, but he’s still emaciated, and we’re trying to figure out the underlying causes” of his weakened condition.
It’s no surprise that Keller stopped what he was doing to help, said Jerri Schaefer, director of communications at SIEC. “He’s a very caring individual and a good grandfather. I can see him taking time to help any animal or person.”