A ‘crappy day’ for bald eagle that landed in Craig sewage pool
CRAIG — A rescue mission for a bald eagle that landed in a sewage treatment pool at the Craig Wastewater Plant had a happy ending on Friday.
The male bald eagle landed in the wastewater treatment plant’s oxidation ditch. Plant employees pulled it from the pool and captured it in a blanket.
The eagle was then given to District Wildlife Manager Johnathan Lambert, of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, who transported it to the care of Tracy Bye, at Born Free Wildlife Rehabilitation in Steamboat Springs. Once the bird recovers, it will likely be released near where it was captured, though well away from sewage lagoons.
“She’ll clean it up and make sure everything’s good,” Lambert said. “He’s just having a crappy day.”
From Steamboat, the eagle was transported to the Birds of Prey Foundation in Broomfield for lead testing. The eagle tested positive for lead poisoning, which means he will be in rehabilitation for longer than expected to detoxify.
Tyler Slaight, a city water distribution/wastewater collection foreman, was pulling through the gate to the plant, when he noticed several crows circling the plant’s oxidation ditch, which plant employees call the racetrack. A bald eagle flew in and disappeared behind the 4-foot concrete wall that holds city sewage in the early stages of treatment.
“I knew that wasn’t a good place to land, so I went inside and told the guys that I think something else might’ve fallen in the racetrack, like an animal or something, because an eagle landed in there,” he said.
The eagle tried to swim to the edge of the pool but struggled amid the thick foam and sewage. The plant employees realized the bird needed help. Todd Smilanich grabbed a rake and, with Slaight’s help, pulled the eagle out.
“I’m just glad I saw it, because it wouldn’t of been much longer before it went under,” Slaight said.
Once on the ground, the bird hopped around for a bit, flapping its wings and trying to fly. Slaight called dispatch to request a wildlife officer. His father, former firefighter Doug Slaight, heard the call on the scanner and headed to the wastewater plant. Crows were now flogging the eagle, and all the bird’s attempts at flight were unsuccessful. With a shivering eagle in their sight and the nearest wildlife officer more than an hour’s drive away, Tyler Slaight and his father decided to try to capture it.
Doug and Tim Kulp walked toward the bird with a blanket, while Dustin Willey and Tyler Slaight flanked them to prevent the bird from escaping sideways. They wrapped the blanket around the bird, and Doug Slaight put the bundled bird in the back of his GMC Sierra.
“I was surprised that he didn’t try to bite or anything,” Doug Slaight said. The bird hissed at its captors, but it didn’t try to injure them. “I knew he was too cold, because he was shivering like crazy.”
Doug Slaight took the eagle to his home, parking his truck in the garage in case the eagle tried to fly away when they transferred it to CPW. Lambert arrived and placed the eagle into a large, plastic dog kennel. Eagle in tow, Lambert headed to the rehabilitation center in Steamboat.
It was the first time Tyler Slaight had seen a bird land in the oxidation pool, though he said it likely happens without catching anyone’s notice. On one occasion, a deer got through the fence around the pool and was pulled out of the sludge.
“Were just proud of both of them and proud of the whole crew that got out there and did that,” said City Manager Mike Foreman. “All of our employees take pride in everything they do, but to do something like this is amazing, so we really appreciate them.”