Eagle rescue: a tale of faith and healingA walk in the woods last month changed the lives of three Osakis area residents and saved a majestic creature. On October 23, Ken Johnson was out in the woods near his home preparing for deer hunting season when he looked up and there, only six feet away, a bald eagle sat on a pile of logs. The bird jumped around, but obviously couldn’t fly.
By: Amy Chaffins, Alexandria Echo Press
A walk in the woods last month changed the lives of three Osakis area residents and saved a majestic creature.
On October 23, Ken Johnson was out in the woods near his home preparing for deer hunting season when he looked up and there, only six feet away, a bald eagle sat on a pile of logs.
The bird jumped around, but obviously couldn’t fly.
The sun was setting quickly and Johnson headed back to the house where he told his wife, Linda, about the encounter.
The next morning, Ken and Linda ventured out to the woods together.
Sure enough, there was the eagle and it was obvious the bird was injured with a broken wing.
Linda said she made a few calls, but no one was available from the DNR or local sportsmen’s club to help them get the bird the help it needed.
However, a call to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center set the injured eagle rescue in motion. Raptor Center staff told Linda what to do to capture the bird – throw a blanket over the eagle and it would sit down and calm down.
The Johnsons called on a third person to help in the rescue, Pastor Lindell Quam, and the three ventured to the same wooded spot where the eagle remained.
Linda said the eagle was about 2 feet tall. “The bird’s talons were huge; they were as big as my hand.”
When he first saw it, Pastor Quam said he was surprised to see an eagle sitting on a stump just a couple feet off the ground.
“Eagles are supposed to soar above,” he said. “I was thankful it was found so that it could possibly be helped.”
Pastor Quam was in charge of throwing the blanket over the injured eagle.
Linda said, “I distracted the bird while [Pastor Quam] dropped a blanket on it.”
Once the blanket was over the bird and it had settled, Pastor Quam picked up the eagle.
“Because I had to quite firmly restrain the bird, I was mindful that I did not want to further injure it,” he said. “Seeing the eagle turn its head, look directly at me, open its big hooked beak and make sounds that didn’t sound like ‘Hi, I’m glad you’re here to help me,’ and recognizing that under that thick blanket were talons that could very uncomfortably grip my forearm, I was very thankful to be in control... and that Kenny and Linda were within a few feet.”
The three headed back toward the house with Pastor Quam carrying the bird.
During the up close encounter, Quam said he felt, “Thankfulness and recognition that God made this creature.”
Linda also had a chance to hold the eagle and said, “To actually hold it in your hands – it was like holding a sunrise or a rainbow – it was such a humbling, special feeling,” she said. “It’s a magnificent symbol of our freedom. Eagles are also referenced in the Bible, so to touch a symbol of God’s magnificence – it was like seeing God’s majesty and power.”
Back at the house, Linda said that Ken decided the best place to hold the bird would be the back of her van.
With a laugh, Linda said she asked her husband, who was going to go in and get the bird if it escaped and started flying around in her vehicle.
“But the eagle was just fine,” Linda said. “He was totally calm and looked like he knew we were taking care of him.”
The next day, Raptor Center staff arrived at the Johnsons to pick up the eagle.
Just last week, Linda said she called to check on the eagle to see how he was recovering. Staff told her that the bird’s injuries were fixable and it would likely take up to a year for it to completely recover. For now, the eagle is eating, taking in antibiotics and healing well.
Along with the positive prognosis, Linda said the good news was shadowed when she learned that the eagle’s injuries were the result of someone shooting it.
“Whoever did this – what a terrible thing to do,” she said.
Linda said she looks forward to seeing the eagle again when it’s returned to the area for its release back to nature in about one year.
In the meantime, that chance encounter in the woods not only saved the life of a majestic creature, but three lives are forever changed.
Pastor Quam said, “While I happened to be the one to capture the eagle, God made it. Kenny saw the injured bird first. Linda did the research and made the calls as to how to safely capture the bird. I was just privileged to be along. The experience was a gift. And, of course, a sermon illustration: Even the noble, strong creation can be wounded and require outside help.”
Editor’s note: A coincidental twist to this story is that Linda Johnson volunteers for the Sauk Centre-based, non-profit organization, Eagle’s Healing Nest. Its mission is to provide assistance in the healing of the invisible wounds of war veterans, military members and their families…past, present and future. Linda said she hopes to coordinate the eagle’s release for the veterans to see. We’ll keep you updated on the eagle’s recovery, and Linda’s plans for the release.