HUGHSON — An injured golden eagle, believed to be an adult male, was “jumpy” Monday morning. That was a good sign, Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center staff members said, describing a creature that two weeks ago couldn’t lift its head.
The eagle, brought to the center from the Los Banos area Feb. 15, had been hit by a car. It suffered a badly ripped crop, the gullet where it stores its food. The injury had become infected and the bird had lost a lot of blood and suffered from dehydration.
Last week, veterinarian Doug Marks of Turlock operated on the eagle, cleaning and repairing the wound. Now the bird is recovering at the Hughson care center until it’s stable enough to go to a care center that specializes in eagles. But workers hope the next eagle that comes in can recover closer to home.
The board of the nonprofit organization has accepted a bid to build an eagle flight cage. The cage, which will measure 20 feet by 100 feet long and 16 feet high, would allow the center to get a certificate to rehabilitate eagles.
“It would be better for him not to have to have a two-hour drive to another center,” said Donna Burt, director of the center. The flight cage, which would cost roughly $122,000, would have other uses than for eagles, which are rare finds in the area.
It’s expected to take about 10 weeks to build after the board of directors approves a formal construction bid. The center also has to get the necessary building permits.
“When we don’t have eagles in there, we would use it for red-tailed hawks and great horned owls, which we get in the hundreds,” Burt said. The cages the facility uses for hawks and owls were built in the 1990s and are in need of repair or replacement.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has donated the power poles needed to form the base of the cage, and the center has received a $50,000 grant toward the cost of construction.
As for the remainder, “We have the money in the bank, but if we spend it, we won’t have much left,” Burt said. That would hinder other projects and operational expenses.
Staff and volunteers are working on a fundraising program that could include sponsorships and plaques in the flight cage.
In the meantime, the golden eagle, like an injured bald eagle rescued in November, will go to another facility to return to full health. Then it will be released back in Los Banos.
For more information or to donate toward the flight cage, go online to www.stanislauswildlife.org or call (209) 883-9414.