Togiak's final flight

Mar 31, 2017

An injured bald eagle found in Togiak Sunday was transported to Anchorage for treatment. The bird was improving until Wednesday, when its condition rapidly deteriorated and it was euthanized.

Togiak, a bald eagle found injured in the village of Togiak Sunday, was transported to Anchorage. Pictured here at the Dillingham Airport.
Credit USFWS

An injured eagle found Sunday in Togiak was transported to a bird treatment facility in Anchorage this week. The initial prognosis for recovery was positive, but things took a turn for the worse Wednesday evening and the eagle was euthanized. A postmortem x-ray revealed the bald eagle had been shot and likely died of lead poisoning. KDLG's Lawrence Hamilton reports.

Audio Transcript: A group of children found the injured or ill bald eagle near the seawall in Togiak Sunday. It's left wing was flapping, but the right was tucked in and immobile. They named the eagle Togiak, and brought it to the village police officer.

VPO Gregory Eversol first put "Togiak" in a jail cell before finding a kennel. He called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for help about what to do next.

"The very next morning I handed the eagle over to Keemuel Kenrud at the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge here in Togiak," Eversol said. "He made sure the eagle was placed on a plane to Dillingham."

Togiak National Wildlife Refuge manager Susanna Henry oversaw the bird’s transfer at Dillingham to a cargo flight to Anchorage.

Her office occasionally deals with injured eagles, often because people are never really sure what to with the emblematic bird.

"One of the things that is different about a bald eagle is that they were once listed under the threatened and endangered species act," Henry said. "They are not a game bird."

Togiak made its way to the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage, a non-profit specializing in rehabilitative care.

By Wednesday, he appeared to be on the mends. Bird TLC coordinator Amy Kilshaw said while she didn't know what had happened to the eagle, she was optimistic for a full recovery.

 "It’s doing well," she said. "When it came in it was lying down and its wings were very droopy. We gave it some fluids and just doing that is a miracle sometimes."

Once recovered, Togiak would be released outside of Anchorage to resume his life in the wild. But this was not to be: his health took a turn for the worse Wednesday night, and on Thursday Kilshaw shared the grim news that he had been euthanized.

"I heard some very strange sounds that I have never heard come from an eagle," Kilshaw said. "He was having a very hard time breathing, and suffering, so we put him to sleep." 

A post mortem X-ray revealed that Togiak had been shot.

"He had two pieces of lead shot in him, one in his pelvis and one in his wing," Kilshaw said.

The shooting did not appear recent, said Kilshaw, and had likely caused the eagle's drawn out demise by poisoning.

"Lead poisoning is a long, slow, painful death," she said.

Since 2007, bald eagles are no longer on the endangered species list, but they are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Act of 1940. Shooting one can carry penalties of up to a year in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.

Togiak village police say they have no leads on who shot this eagle, so whoever did so will likely get away with it this time.

Reach the author at lawrence@kdlg.org or 907.842.5281.