The dog and the bald eagle: Is that one of Aesop's Fables? Or did Jack London write that?
Actually it was Wildwoods, the Duluth-area wildlife rehabilitation center, which recently posted a photo essay that we expect will be turned into an animated Disney movie by this summer.
The story starts with two women walking around Lake Superior with a golden-haired dog named Kenai. It's an appropriate name, for our tale begins with Kenai spotting something moving down near the river bank. The women approached the stirring creature and found a bald eagle sitting in the snow. Kenai barked at our national bird, but it didn't fly off, instead hopping its way down near the shore.
The women tried to approach what seemed like an obviously injured animal, but baldy wanted privacy, and continued to move away from them. The women — referred to here as "Pam and Kerrie," though those names will probably be changed for the film adaptation — called off their pursuit, promising to return the next day for another look.
Following the eagle-shaped prints in the snow, they found the white-hatted raptor perched in a low tree, not far from where they'd left it. Pam and Kerrie contacted the Department of Natural Resources, and soon returned with a couple state animal experts. Together, the four of them wrangled the eagle — who was found to be "chilled," with frozen feathers — and deposited it into an animal transport container.
But you probably don't want to walk into any old clinic with a frightened symbol of American greatness. So they took the eagle to Wildwoods in Duluth, where staff thawed him out in a towel, resulting in this glorious photo.
The bird had one clear external injury, a bum shoulder, which was probably keeping him earthbound. But Wildwoods also thought he might be suffering from lead poisoning, a common occurrence during hunting season. When eagles eat the corpse of a deer that was shot and field-dressed, or shot and not killed, they ingest lead that has spread through the deer's tissue.
Naturally, every Disney story needs a lesson. And the moral of the dog and the eagle — Elaine? We're still focus-grouping the eagle's name — is one about lead bullets. The eagle was driven to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center in St. Paul, where blood tests confirmed lead poisoning. Veterinarians said the eagle's chances of recovery are "fair," which isn't exactly the most optimistic prognosis.
Wildwoods used the eagle's tale to make the case that hunters should switch to copper bullets. A 2012 study by the Raptor Center reported that 80 percent of bald eagles they received over a 13-year period had elevated lead levels; about a quarter had fatal lead poisoning.
Eagles with high lead levels lose power over their central nervous systems. Some lose the ability to fly altogether, and wind up stuck on the ground. They starve to death.
Copper bullets do cost a little more, Wildwoods concedes, but, "isn't an eagle's life worth it?"