Handler Hannah Blanke is holding Zappa, Sheila Swanberg performing the exam. Photo by Britainy Wright.

Some Sitka electric customers were out of power for a brief window on Sunday (1-13-19) afternoon when an eagle became stuck on a power line near Crescent Harbor.

Jennifer Cedarleaf, Avian Director of the Alaska Raptor Center, said the eagle seemed stressed when she arrived to the scene, but he wasn’t tangled up.

“I looked up and I saw this poor eagle who was kind of stuck on the cross bars of the power pole and seemed to be touching the wire, we’re not really sure on that,” Cedarleaf said. “He was just kind of laying there panting like he was in some pain.” 

After a line crew arrived, at 2:46, the electric department shut off a section of the grid in order to safely remove the bird. According to Electric Utility Director Brian Bertacchi, power was restored nine minutes later, and the bird was turned over to Cedarleaf, still alive.

“He was a little out of it, didn’t have a lot of energy and was soaking wet, because he had been up there for at least an hour,” said Cedarleaf.

Rescuers took the eagle back to the Raptor Center, gave it warm fluids and put him in a kennel to rest. Cedarleaf is unsure if the bird was receiving any voltage during its ordeal, but they do know that it has no broken bones, thanks to a brand new digital x-ray machine.

“He was our first bird that we x-ray’d on the new digital x-ray, which is so cool,” she said. “It took like half the time it would have taken to do it the old fashioned way.”

Cedarleaf says the eagle seems fine now. They plan to move it into the main flight sometime this week. If the bird does well, they’ll release it in the spring. And in the tradition of the Raptor Center, they gave it a name: Zappa.

Although there’s no way of knowing why Zappa went into harm’s way on the electric pole, Cedarleaf does have a theory: someone nearby may have left food out for the bird. Eagles are hungry this time of year, and they’ll go for anything.

“I have actually fed an eagle McDonald’s french fries, and he was hungry enough that he ate them,” Cedarleaf said. “So they’ll eat anything. If they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat it.”

Cedarleaf says while it’s technically legal to feed wild birds in Alaska, she hopes Sitkans will be mindful of bird safety. She encourages people take the food up into a muskeg, or on the beach, away from roads and power lines, where it’s less likely they’ll be injured.