An injured bald eagle rescued last week has been trying to bite staff at the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center and has become downright ornery and thats a sign of improvement, said the centers director, Donna Burt.
The juvenile bird of prey was anemic, too thin and couldnt fly when it was brought to the center by U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens Thursday.
The eagle had minor injuries to its left wing but no broken bones. It likely stopped its migratory journey at a rural home south of Modesto because of a condition in young birds of prey Burt called starving teenager.
Migration is really hard on birds, and if they dont have enough fat reserves when they start out, they wont make it, she said.
The bald eagle weighed 91/2 pounds when it was checked in at the center last week and should have been closer to 11.
Many bald eagles migrate south from Canada for the winter, and those that end up in this area settle near bodies of water in the foothills like New Hogan Land and New Melones, Burt said.
Since 1995, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation has counted bald eagles and golden eagles at New Melones. This year had the highest count of bald eagles on record, 51. In 2012, there were 30.
The bald eagle, the U.S. national bird, was removed from the list of threatened and endangered species in 2007, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
After nearly vanishing from the United States decades ago, the bald eagle has rebounded primarily because of federal habitat protection and a ban on a pesticide that caused the bird to lay unhealthy eggs.
Burt said the bald eagle at the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center its gender still undetermined is expected to be healthy enough for transportation to a care center in Roseville this week.
The center in Stanislaus County is not yet equipped with a cage large enough to house a bald eagle, which Burt said must be at least 100 feet long, 20 feet wide and 16 feet tall. She said the center has saved $50,000 for such a project, but the first design option explored cost about $200,000. It is looking at other, less expensive options.
Donations to the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center can be made by credit card at www.stanislauswildlife.org or through a check that can be mailed to or dropped off at the center at 1220 Geer Road in Hughson.
Burt said many people went to the center over the weekend in hopes of getting a peek at the bald eagle, but it and other sick wild animals are not on display.