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Sam Cook, Forum News Service, Published July 17 2013

Eagle rescued from Duluth airport tarmac, rehabbed found dead

DULUTH, Minn. - Talk about tough luck.

A bald eagle was found dead along the St. Louis River on Monday evening, ensnared in fishing line. That was its second unfortunate experience this year.

The bird was one of the two eagles that were found with their talons entangled May 12 when they crashed to the tarmac at the Duluth International Airport.

Mike Schrage, wildlife biologist for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, said one of the band’s conservation officers found the dead eagle Monday evening just south of the U.S. Highway 2 bridge over the St. Louis River near Brookston.

“Judging from the condition of the carcass, it had been dead for two or three days,” Schrage said.

When Schrage received the bird, it was wearing a band on one leg. Schrage called the band number in to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Bird Banding Laboratory at Patuxent, Md. He confirmed the bird was one of the two that had been found at the airport in Duluth on May 12. The bird involved in the fishing-line incident had been treated at the Raptor Center in St. Paul, banded and released June 12 at the Carpenter Nature Center in Hastings, Minn.

“It made a beeline back to where it had come from,” Schrage said.

But it had become entangled in the fishing line and was unable to free itself. The eagle was a mature male, Schrage said.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Randy Hanzal of Duluth had answered a call about the two entangled eagles at the airport in May. The birds had locked talons in mid-air and couldn’t get separated before they crashed to the concrete, Hanzal said at that time.

He tried to transport the entangled birds to a local wildlife rehabilitation organization, but one of the two eagles managed to work his talons free and escape. The remaining bird was transported to the Raptor Center, where it recovered from deep puncture wounds in one leg and one deep abdominal puncture.

Schrage reminded anglers to properly dispose of discarded fishing line.

“It’s too bad,” Schrage said. “I’ve seen this before with other birds — herons and others. Fishermen, be careful and pick up your fishing line. It can last a long time, and it can be a killer.”