Hundreds of bald eagles spend the winter in the Klamath Basin, attracted to the easy meals to be made of waterfowl that overwinter in the marshes and of roadkill on the highways around.
KENO — Hundreds of bald eagles spend the winter in the Klamath Basin, attracted to the easy meals to be made of waterfowl that overwinter in the marshes and of roadkill on the highways around. But the bald eagle is slow on takeoff, which means the birds often get hit by vehicles and sent to the Badger Run Wildlife Rehab center.
The center in the small town Keno is a nonprofit organization that cares for the Klamath eagles that survive collisions on the road, or another big threat — gunshots.
About 10 eagles get to the center a year, most of them bald eagles, the center's president, Liz Diver, told the Klamath Falls Herald and News.
About half recover and pass tests to make sure they can fly and hunt, Diver said. Then they're released into the wild.
Others are amputees that will never fly again and take up residence at the center, where some recently flapped about, never getting more than a few feet above the ground. Among the four birds, there were only five wings.
Still others succumb to their injuries.
"You try," Diver said. "You do your best, but sometimes nature has other plans."
Eagles are opportunists, Diver said, taking kills from other birds, scavenging carcasses and filling up on roadkill.
"They're happy to stand there and gorge themselves, rather than exert the effort hunting," she said.
But that makes them vulnerable, she said.
"If this bird is flying down across the highway and you're coming along at 65, they can't really move out of your way," Diver said.
Eight to 10 eagles a year are injured on the basin's roadways each year, said state wildlife biologist Tom Collom.
"They're kind of a slow bird to take off, so the road provides that hazard to them, certainly," he said.
Late in December, he said there were an estimated 200 to 300 bald eagles in the Klamath Basin. The agency says as many as 500 can spend January and February there.
Diver said people who find injured bald eagles should be cautious about diseases and sharp beaks and talons.
"You want to put on a pair of welding gloves and use a thick blanket to pick up that animal," she said. "Protect yourself from those weapons."
Better yet, she tells Basin residents, leave the bird alone — don't even offer food or water — and get expert help.
"Just call us," Diver said, "and let us deal with it."