Golden eagle struck by locomotive gets second chance in the wild

Photos from the release. (Courtesy: California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

A golden eagle that was struck by a Union Pacific locomotive has been released back into the wild.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says the golden eagle was hit by the locomotive on February 14.

The eagle was rescued and rehabilitated and successfully released back into the wild near Jackson on Tuesday.

CDFW says the eagle was stuck in the engine plow of the locomotive engine. Officials say no one at CDFW or the railroad had ever heard of this happening before.

Officials say the train was going into Stockton from Utah. A maintenance worker noticed a large animal between the plow and the front of the locomotive after the cargo was unloaded.

Realizing the animal was still alive, CDFW says the worker stopped the engine and alerted his supervisor who then called CDFW where the local wardens were able to respond directly to the yard.

CDFW says the massive engine was uncoupled from the cars and moved into the maintenance facility.

For more than an hour, CDFW says more than a dozen Union Pacific workers slowly dismantled the plow one bolt at a time, revealing the eagle trapped with its wings pinned down and stuck between the plow and the engine.

As the workers removed the last piece of the plow, CDFW says the eagle fell free and was quickly covered with a blanket to keep it calm.

CDFW wardens Brad Mello and Justin Cisneros then put the bird into a dog crate along with some branches and foliage that Union Pacific maintenance workers had cut from nearby trees to make the bird more comfortable.

The eagle was then transported to Tri County Wildlife Care in Jackson where it was successfully rehabilitated.

CDFW says thanks to a team of rescuers, including caring railroad employees, CDFW Wardens Brad Mello and Justin Cisneros and the staff at Tri County Wildlife Care, the bird was deemed ready to be released just two and a half weeks after the rescue.

CDFW says when the eagle was released at a remote location, he walked around the area and looked back at his human rescuers before taking flight.

At first, CDFW says a few ravens and hawks in the area tried to harass the eagle, but he spread his wings and quickly outpaced them.

The CDFW says the rescue of the eagle was one of the most unusual circumstances in CDFW history.

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