Two Canadian brothers are being commended for a daring rescue that could’ve ended up getting both of them hurt: they braved the sharp talons and beak of a massive bald eagle to save the suffering creature from hunter’s trap, and took an awesome selfie to mark the feat.
Neil and Michael Fletcher went out into the bush Tuesday to hunt grouse, the brothers told local paper the Sudbury Star. The pair had just approached an open cut when Neil thought he saw a bald eagle. They backed up the truck, hopped out, and explored on foot. On the way, the noticed a couple ravens circling nearby, CBC News added.
Before long, they came to a set of quad tracks and followed them, thinking perhaps a hunter had left behind what they called a “gut pile,” which would attract the scavenger. Eventually, they did come upon a bald eagle, but he wasn’t feasting on animal entrails.
His foot was stuck in a hunting trap, specifically a claw trap often used by fur harvesters, the brothers — who are in their late 20s — explained. The trap was attached to a stake, and the trapped raptor was trying to fly away. He only had a foot of slack in the chain.
For a moment, they considered calling wildlife officials, but felt an immediate rescue was necessary. Before long, a coyote would likely come by to attack and kill the bald eagle. If that didn’t happen, the animal would’ve been exhausted by its effort to free itself and starved.
So, they took action to rescue the creature.
But first, a little bit about the bald eagle, to fully understand the stakes against these brave brothers. The raptor is among the largest bird of prey in North America, and its wingspan can stretch to the length of a human being. In fact, Neil is six feet tall, and they believed this bald eagle’s wingspan was about as long. And, of course, it’s known for its sharp beak and talons.
Luckily, the Fletchers seemed to know just what to do. To rescue the raptor, they approached slowly and placed a hoodie over its head to calm it.
“At first (it) was a bit nervous to have my brother and myself there,” Neil said. “As soon as he realized we were trying to help, he kind of calmed down a little bit. His head would kind of move back and forth to look at us, but that was the most he’d do.”
Michael said it didn’t fuss or act aggressive during the long process to rescue him from the trap. The bird had actually grasped onto the trap with those dangerous claws, and they had quite a time convincing it to let go.
After some coaxing and patience, it was finally freed. Luckily, the foot caught in the trap wasn’t injured, nor was the rest of him, and the Fletchers said they didn’t see any blood. Before they came along to rescue it, they surmised it had been caught for quite a while.
Since they likely would never encounter such a majestic bird again, Neil and Michael decided to document their daring rescue by snapping a selfie — and the bird seemed quite willing.
“I knew this would never happen again, so before we let it go, I told my brother Michael, ‘we should take a picture with it.’ The bird had its mouth open, but he never tried to fly or bite or do anything. It made it pretty easy [for us to] take a picture with it.”
After that was done, they lifted the bird up to shoulder height, gave it a push to catapult it into the air, and it flew off into a nearby tree. The bald eagle watched his rescuers for 15 minutes and remained in its tree as the brothers left.
They never found any grouse, but they said a close encounter and rescue of a bald eagle is a fine compromise.
“I was surprised by the size, and that it’s such a beautiful bird. When you see the eyes up close, they’re really amazing,” Michael added.
“Me and my brother, we’ve always been in the bush, always been hunters. And we’ve always had a lot of respect for bald eagles. We were just really amazed — and still are.”
[Photo by Teri Virbickis/Shutterstock]