MANATEE -- A juvenile bald eagle which has only one leg, yet seems to be surviving at Bradenton Country Club, has gained the support of some country club residents who would like to see the bird caught and given a safe forever home.
Dave and Ellie Coupland , who live on the Bradenton Country Club golf course in the 1300 block of 51st Street West, had a close encounter with the eagle Friday on the 15th fairway behind their home. The eagle was on the ground for about an hour, seemingly exhausted, the Couplands said.
"It was standing on one leg, trying to balance itself," Ellie Coupland said of the eagle.
The Couplands called Wildlife, Inc. Education & Rehabilitation Center, a not-for-profit animal rescue from Anna Maria Island, which sent out wildlife rescuer Damen Hurd to pick up the bird.
"There are coyotes out here, which is not good for the eagle," Dave Coupland said. "I think it's important to catch it."
Hurd, who is also the wildlife tour guide at Mixon Fruit Farms, got within about 15 feet of the eagle with a net at 2:30 p.m. before it flew away.
"I was glad someone could come out and assist, but it's too bad it took off," Ellie Coupland said. "It couldn't fly very high."
Hurd saw the eagle again a half hour later in a pond near the front entrance to Bradenton Country Club.
"One resident told me he saw it eat something," said Hurd, who thinks the ea
gle is getting by at the country club despite its disability. "It could survive. Eagles are not only birds of prey but they can also be scavengers."
The eagle may have lost its leg when fishing line wrapped around it, or possibly it suffered an injury in a scuffle with another animal, Hurd said.
Hurd judges the eagle to be nearly 5 years old because at that age eagles have all-white heads and tails and all-black bodies, which this eagle appears to have. Eagles can live to age 50, Hurd said.
"They are speckled as juveniles, and, judging by this one's color, I would call it an older juvenile and maybe a female," Hurd added.
Wildlife, Inc. would like to give the eagle a forever home if possible but, if it takes the bird in, it must follow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines, Hurd said.
"We've put a call into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking if we must perform a euthanasia if we bring it in due to it missing a leg," Hurd said. "If they tell us it's a euthanasia we would rather not bring her in and give her a chance in the wild. We must follow their regulations because they are the agency that grants us our permit. They might feel it isn't a fair life for an eagle to be in captivity with one leg."
Growing up in Canada, the Couplands both developed a deep respect for nature.
Dave Coupland, now a co-owner of ReMax/Alliance real estate offices in the area and a former 3M salesman in Canada, once had a pet duck named Snorky that he led around on a leash until it was decided the duck should go to a nearby farm.
Besides being a golfer, Dave Coupland photographs wildlife behind his home with his Canon 5D Mark II camera.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.