PORT ANGELES — Sparky the eagle appears headed for recovery after he was electrocuted March 12 by a 7,200-volt power line before falling 45 feet from an electric distribution pole, his plunge broken by nearby branches.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the 4- to 6-year-old male bald eagle was rambunctious, off his medication and getting along nicely, said Jaye Moore, executive director of the Sequim-based Northwest Raptor and Wildlife Center, where Sparky is recuperating.
“He is doing fabulous, really good,” Moore said. “He’s grabbing food from me now.
“He’s acting more like an eagle every day.”
Still, Sparky is about a month away from possibly being released back to the wild — and home to his mate.
“Every time I put money on one of these birds, say ‘Yes, this one is going to make it,’ poof, they’re gone the next day,” Moore said.
“I don’t want to jinx him.”
She’ll know more about how Sparky is doing — mainly his internal organs, which when electrocuted are slow to show lasting damage — after taking him later this week for a checkup at Greywolf Veterinary Hospital in Sequim.
“We want to get Sparky in again and have him rechecked before we make any decisions on what we are going to do with him,” she said.
“I haven’t seen skin sloughing off or any dead tissue peeling off, nothing like that.
“He’s going to make it, I feel that, but if he returns to the wild or not, that’s something else.”
Moore said if all goes well, the eagle will be moved from a travel cage to a 100-square-foot cage, then to a 10-foot-by-40-foot cage “to see what he can do” before he graduates to a flight pen.
Moore said that, for the time being, Sparky, who weighed 7.2 pounds when he was electrocuted, is probably a little heavier after dining regularly on a steady diet of herring, mice, rats and chicken.
“He’s eating well, casting pellets like he’s supposed to, going to the bathroom like he’s supposed to,” she said. “Everything is working.”
Sparky and his mate were living in a Douglas fir on Dry Creek Road west of Port Angeles before his run-in with the power line.
It’s located about 800 feet southwest of the nest Sparky was building for the pair — and possibly their future offspring.
Moore said it doesn’t appear any babies have yet hatched because the female has not been seen sitting on the nest.
“I haven’t heard her screaming or doing anything horrible, but I would say she’s in distress,” she said. “My push is, what I am really trying do, is to get him back to his mate.”
Sparky was electrocuted after he alighted on the power pole.
He touched the power line with his talon, part of which melted, while draping his wing over the pole’s cross-arm, creating a path to ground, which allowed voltage to course into the talon, through his body and out the wing.
Jaye Moore’s husband, Gary — a Raptor Center volunteer and the Clallam Public Utility District operations manager — said Tuesday that Sparky was lying on the pole when PUD workers were setting up an aerial truck to rescue it.
But Sparky became agitated and dropped toward the ground.
His fall was broken by branches from a nearby tree, said Detective Sgt. Eric Munger of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.
Jaye Moore said she doesn’t like to name Raptor Center birds for fear she and the staff will become too attached to the animals if they don’t survive.
But even Moore couldn’t help but name a bird that after nine days had survived thousands of volts of electricity and a four-story fall.
“Someone heard me giving him more pain meds, saying ‘OK, Sparky, here we go,’ ” Moore recalled. “Everyone goes, ‘Oh, that’s perfect.’ I didn’t mean for it to stick.”
Sparky is one of three bald eagles under the facility’s care, but the only one who has faced down death by electrocution.
Moore said the other two birds were injured in territorial clashes.
They don’t have names.
“I just call one Bremerton, that’s where she came from,” Moore said.
The other eagle is called East Beach, for the area at Lake Crescent where the injured bird was found.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].