One of the oldest bald eagles ever documented in America died over the Memorial Day weekend at a wild bird sanctuary in Maine.

The female bald eagle was banded as a nestling in Canada in June 1983, rescued in Maine in the spring of 2017 after an apparent fight with another eagle and euthanized Saturday at Avian Haven in Freedom, which had cared for the eagle since her rescue. The bald eagle was the oldest documented in Maine, at nearly 36 years.

The wild bird rehabilitation center announced the news in a Facebook post Sunday. “Our hearts were beyond sad when we said goodbye to the elder Bald Eagle from Trescott yesterday afternoon,” Avian Haven executive director Diane Winn wrote in the post.

The bird suffered a broken leg Friday, perhaps losing her balance and falling, Winn speculated.

“We don’t know exactly what happened. We found her on the ground Friday afternoon, with her left leg badly broken. X-rays revealed that the leg was beyond repair and also showed a progressive and likely painful arthritis in the knee and ankle of that leg,” she wrote.

The Portland Press Herald reported her rescue by the Maine Warden Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in April 2017 in Trescott in Washington County, near the border with Canada.

Maine Game Warden Joe McBrine rescued the eagle along the shoreline, after being directed by a lobsterman. At the time, wildlife officials determined the eagle had been banded on June 21, 1983, on Grand Manan Island in Canada, shortly after hatching.

According to The Associated Press, an eagle believed to be the oldest banded bald eagle in U.S. history was found dead at age 38 in upstate New York in 2015.

Eagles in the wild generally live between 15 and 20 years. In the early 1970s, bald eagles were endangered, with fewer than 30 nesting pairs in the state.

Eagles are no longer endangered. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife estimated there were 733 nesting pairs in 2018.

Winn said the deep puncture wound the eagle suffered to her right leg that prompted her rescue two years ago left her somewhat lame.

“Over time, it’s likely that she had come to over-rely on her ‘good’ leg,” Winn wrote. “Whether as an aftermath of her lead exposure, or perhaps her advanced age, her coordination had never been perfect. Perhaps she lost her balance and fell. But however the injury occurred, we consulted with our wildlife veterinarian colleague Dr. Mark Pokras, and he agreed … that we should relieve her of her suffering. It is of some comfort to know that her final days were spent in a safe and peaceful environment, well-fed and cared for, as she deserved.”

Winn said the eagle’s legacy will live on in four young eagles she has fostered during her time in Freedom.

 

 


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