The bandages could not diminish the bird’s majesty.
Nor could the portable kennel that was a temporary home instead of a lofty perch in an oak tree near Lake Manatee.
The adult female bald eagle exuded a regal presence, even while recuperating from a chest wound at Wildlife Inc. Education & Rehabilitation Center on Anna Maria Island.
Gail and Ed Straight have cared for countless critters in 25 years at Wildlife Inc., but the bald eagle, an American icon, comes few and far between.
“You can almost feel the eagle’s energy in the room.” Ed said Wednesday morning. “You can feel their magnificence.”
“They’re different,” his wife said. “They intrigue people.”
The bald eagle was brought to them Saturday night by William VanGelder, a senior land management specialist with the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Alerted by a nearby landowner, he found the injured bald eagle near Gilley Creek, a northern tributary of the Manatee River within the 5,800-acre Edward W. Chance Reserve.
“I saw it underneath an oak and gave it enough opportunity to fly, but when I knew it wasn’t, I knew I had to get it to a facility,” VanGelder said. “It’s an American bald eagle and I’m well aware of that significance. It’s something that has special protection and we take that seriously.”
Because of the size of the wound, the Straights initially suspected a gunshot, but X-rays were negative. No bones were broken, either.
The eagles they’ve treated -- about two a year -- are usually victims of disease or electrocution by power lines.
“It’s strange that would be the only place it’s wounded,” Gail Straight said. “Normally after an attack with an animal, you would see more than one wound. She was out there for a few days so who knows? Something can start out this big (a small hole) and can get infected and keep growing.”
Weak and dehydrated, the eagle was given fluids and put on antibiotics. Her condition gradually improved.
“She was pretty down, the infection was getting the best of her,” Straight said. “She wasn’t standing like this when she came in, but now she’s getting better and eating.”
“You’d think an eagle that big would be violent, afraid of people,” Straight’s husband said. “But this one lets Gail bandage it, feed it and everything. It’s like she knows she’s being taken care of.”
They had a Wednesday afternoon appointment with a veterinarian in Nokomis to check the wound and determine further treatment.
The bird weighed 6 pounds, half of what’s normal for an adult female eagle, Gail Straight said.
“She’s eating chicks and rats, but she doesn’t want fish yet,” she said. “She’ll get into that soon.”
Straight hopes the eagle can be released within a month.
“We may have to take it to somebody with a big enough cage to make sure she’s strong enough to be flying before she’s released,” she said. “We want to do everything we need to do to get her back in the wild where she belongs -- especially since it’s breeding season.”
“You want to get it back into the population,” he said.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.