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Sad ending to exhilarating Cowichan River eagle rescue

Peter Dick carries an injured eagle down the Cowichan River Monday as he and guiding partner Ian Barker attemtped to rescue the bird. - courtesy Ian Barker
Peter Dick carries an injured eagle down the Cowichan River Monday as he and guiding partner Ian Barker attemtped to rescue the bird.
— image credit: courtesy Ian Barker

It’s not often you see an eagle sitting docilely in the lap of a fisherman, so it’s fortunate Ian Barker caught the strange sight on video.

The owner of freshwater fishing guide company The Rambling Fisherman, Barker was fishing the Cowichan River with fellow guide Peter Dick on Monday when they spotted a bald eagle on the shore.

“We noticed it wasn’t moving when we got close to it, so we get a little bit closer and it started to hop away,” Barker said.

“We realized it was injured and decided to rescue it.”

The eagle, of course, had other ideas.

“It obviously didn’t want to come with us and started to running away,” Barker recalled.

“Then it dove into the water, into the fast-moving water heading downstream.”

The fishermen followed in their drift boat and Dick eventually jumped from the moving boat onto the shore, capturing the nearby eagle by throwing his jacket over it.

From there, the eagle apparently decided it was in good hands, and the fishermen took their peaceful passenger downriver to meet staff from Pacific Northwest Raptors.

“It was 100 per cent calm, like the calmest baby you’ve ever seen — it was surreal,” Barker said of the wild bird.

“Once we had captured it, it didn’t try to get away or squirm. I would never have imaged that an eagle would react that way.”

Barker had a video camera rolling throughout the rescue, and has posted it on his blog at ramblingfisherman.com.

“His wing seemed to be broken, and who knows how long he has been on that beach?” Barker wrote on his web post. “We are just glad that there are people like the Pacific Northwest Raptors that care enough to help wounded animals like this beautiful bald eagle.”

Unfortunately, however, the eagle’s injuries were so severe the bird was euthanized shortly after his rescue.

Gillian Radcliffe, wildlife ecologist and raptor specialist at Pacific Northwest Raptors, explained multiple breaks near the eagle’s shoulder would have prevented the bird from being rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

But she said Barker and Dick saved the mature male eagle from death by starvation.

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