Eagle rescued from ice on Lake Michigan flies off after ordeal

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Wings of Wonder rescue a bald eagle stuck in ice on Lake Michigan.

An eagle rescued from ice on Lake Michigan earlier this month headed back toward the lake shore Sunday after a brief stop for care at a raptor sanctuary in Empire, Michigan.

“The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa Indians did a drumming and a song,” said Rebecca Lessard, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Wings of Wonder. “It was a tribute to the eagle.”

The bird of prey was returned to the wild from the Suttons Bay High School parking lot in Suttons Bay.

Lessard said the eagle, found with an 8-inch ball of ice attached to its tail, which had carefully been removed at the sanctuary, “flew up and out and headed toward the lake shore.” 

Two adult eagles “just appeared,” she said, came over and circled their just-released brethren. “It was beautiful,” Lessard said.

On Feb. 1, passers-by on Lake Michigan had been watching four eagles eating something on the edge of a block of ice in the lake. Three eventually flew away, but  a fourth remained and it was apparent that something was wrong. 

The finders contacted Wings of Wonder. 

When help arrived, they found the eagle sitting on the edge of an ice shelf about 100 feet from shore, wrote Ken Scott, a volunteer with Wings of Wonder, on YouTube.

“I donned insulated chest waders, a (personal floating device), and slowly plodded out into the water amongst the large, floating ice blocks to corral the eagle with hopes that he would move toward shore where Chris was waiting with (a) blanket and thick handling gloves,” he said. 

They captured the eagle with the ball of ice on its tail. 

After  transporting the eagle to Wings of Wonder, they placed it next to a heat vent to melt the ice but that didn’t work. The next morning, they tried pouring warm water on the iced-up area.

“They were able to remove the ice beast, and it was apparent he was pretty happy to have his discharge chute operating again as he was making up for lost time. With cleared-out piping, he gently accepted his first free meal very gently from forceps,” Scott wrote.

"Sunday morning the eagle was moved to the outside 100-foot flight pen where he finished his full recovery. He is flying perfectly, preening and certainly enjoying his daily free meals of rabbit, rat and fish dinners."

Lessard said Sunday that the eagle was in fine form and was expected to follow the fish migration and dine on ducks during the time between nesting. 

As for releasing her latest charge, she was happy to see him on his way. “It’s the frosting on the cake,” she said.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_