A juvenile bald eagle in need of rescue was found in a somewhat distressing situation at the lake home of Arne Brekke on Island Lake north of Park Rapids on July 6.
Arne’s daughter, Karla Marchell, and her husband, Kirk, of Houston, were visiting with their son, Keith, as well as their daughter, Kristin Langrill, and her husband, Ben.
The family was in a screen house near the lake enjoying the sunset when they heard what sounded like flapping wings.
Kristin, Ben and Karla went to investigate the noise when they found a large brown-headed raptor nearby; its leg had been tangled around a 2-foot-long braided nylon rope that had gotten caught on a tree branch, leaving the bird hanging upside down about 8 feet off the ground.
“It was pretty sad to see him like that,” Karla said.
Arne and Kirk were called over to see the bird, and Kirk determined it was likely a juvenile bald eagle with an approximate wingspan of 5 feet.
They tried contacting the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as well as Itasca State Park, but there were no experts available to be dispatched to the property, and DNR staff told the family the eagle was not likely to survive the night if left until morning.
They were given basic instructions over the phone on how to proceed with taking care of the bird in its dangerous predicament.
Working in the dark by flashlight, the rescue party consisting of Ben and Kristin Langrill, and Kirk and Keith Marchell, was able to rescue the bird.
Ben used a bow saw to cut the branch and then lowered the eagle they had wrapped in a sleeping bag safely to the ground. According to Karla, if he had been on a higher branch, they would have had no way to reach him.
“I think by that time he was tired,” Karla said, explaining how the eagle was not aggressive. “Once he got the blanket around him, he was calm.”
Kristin then unwound the rope from around the bird’s leg. The rope had a loop tied into it that likely had been caught on the branch.
“The young bird looked stressed and tired after the rescue, but seemed OK,” Karla said.
The next morning, the bird was nearby limping but was capable of flapping its wings.
They were contacted by someone from the DNR’s wildlife office in Bemidji the next day and were advised to leave the bird unattended to give it a chance to regain its strength.
By the third day, Arne observed two eagles on an ice ridge near the lake, and by the fourth day, the injured eagle had moved to an open area on the lawn for what the family determined were “flight and landing exercises.”
“The whole family was able to help out,” Karla said. “And it was all the more meaningful to assist our national bird so close to the Fourth of July.”
The family decided it was only fitting to name the bald eagle after the family patriarch, Arne, who was born in Norway and operates Brekke Tours in Grand Forks. The name Arne means “eagle” in Norwegian.
The incident should serve as a reminder for anglers to be careful about leaving ropes, fish hooks with lines or other potentially hazardous materials unattended in the water.
“We now hope he has been able to rejoin and soar with his family and that he will revisit us often,” Karla said.