Two bald eagles died after a roof partially collapsed at the Medicine River Wildlife Centre near Spruce View on Saturday night.
Staff found the birds and the large hole in the eagle enclosure as they started their shifts Sunday morning around 9 a.m. They were able to rescue one adult male bald eagle who was discovered under the snow and lumber.
“He was under three feet of snow and a wooden board and all they seen was his foot sticking out. They managed to get in there and pull him out like an avalanche victim. He was shocked and hypothermic but had no broken bones and has recovered fully and is back to normal,” said Carol Kelly, the centre’s executive director. “We don’t know how long he was under there. It would have been some time.”
The eagles that were killed were one adult female and one juvenile male, who was a recovering patient at the centre.
The five remaining eagles in the enclosure were unhurt and gathered in the north end of the cage. None flew away.
“It’s interesting because a whole quarter of the roof is gone and there is one out there who is flying and is set to be released this spring but he didn’t fly away,” Kelly said.
All eagles have now been secured in the northern end of the cage, which was determined to be stable.
According to Kelly, the south end of the enclosure collapsed after the cumulative effects of heavy snow and strong winds on Saturday night that brought one nearby tree down on it.
“The east corner is now about to go as well,” she said. “We’ve never had problems before because our roof is wood slates with openings between each piece of wood but the building is 20 years old.”
The centre doesn’t know exactly how much damage was done but has decided not to fix the current enclosure and instead build a new one.
It is not yet known how much that will cost but Kelly said she has already had volunteers emailing her committing to helping with the labour.
A “rebuild the eagle cage fund” has been set up (visit www.medicineriverwildlifecentre.ca to donate) and construction on the new home will begin as soon as the ground thaws.
“We thought we would try to make the best of this tragedy so we’ve picked a better location for the new cage and already designed an new and improved structure,” Kelly said.
Most of the centre’s eagles come to them because they have been hit by vehicles. Some are permanent inhabitants with the centre while others are just recovering.
The centre, an educational facility as well as a hospital for injured or orphaned wildlife, is already in the thick of major renovations.
It’s working to expand its 4,500-square-foot space into a larger, 12,000-square-foot structure worth an estimated $2.5 million.
The roof collapse has not set back those renovations, Kelly said.
It’s been a busy winter overall for the centre that has been receiving an influx of moose and deer distress calls, largely related to the season’s snow blitz.
“I have not had one day — with the exception of Christmas day — this season without someone calling about a deer or moose in distress. Sometimes it’s two or three calls a day. These are about things like broken legs, stuck in deep snow. In one incident someone had found a moose calf that had fallen into the ditch and was buried so two guys had to shovel him out. It’s been a tough winter for everyone so far.”