Being hit by a truck saves bald eagle's life

Photo of the bald eagle provided by the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw

A bald eagle that was hit by a truck is headed toward a full recovery, and those caring for it say getting hit was a blessing in disguise.

Cal Zirkle of Pawleys Island spotted the eagle when he was on his way to work last Friday morning on Highway 17 in Litchfield.

He saw the eagle carrying a raccoon carcass in its talons when it was struck by a truck.

Zirkle knew right away he had to do something.

"That's a symbol of our nation's freedom. You just don't leave something like that lay in the road to get mangled," said Zirkle.

Zirkle called 911 and within a few minutes a state trooper showed up.

Other drivers and a conservation officer also came by to help.

Zirkle and the others managed to wrap the injured bird in a tarp and wrangle it into a dog cage.

From there, the eagle was transported to the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw.

The center treats injured raptors from around the Carolinas and Georgia.

Wildlife rehabilitator Debbie Mauney says, surprisingly, the eagle that Zirkle saved did not have serious injuries.

"He had no broken bones, no obvious internal injuries. He had some minor eye trauma," said Mauney, director of the Avian Medical Center.

But Mauney says routine testing that's done on all birds that come to the center showed that the eagle had ingested a tiny lead pellet sometime before it was hit by the truck.

Mauney says the eagle was dying from lead poisoning and would not have survived another 24 hours.

She says being hit by a vehicle probably saved the bird's life.

"We never like to think that, but you know, it got him here, where he needed to be to receive the care he needed," said Mauney. "He was hit by a truck, and that barely fazed him. But that tiny little lead pellet would have killed him within hours."

Dr. Jose Biascoechae, the state's only avian certified veterinarian, surgically removed the pellet.

Mauney says the eagle is undergoing chelation therapy to remove the metal poisoning from its body.

She says within weeks it should make a full recovery.

Zirkle wants to be there when the eagle goes home.

"If it's lucky enough to make it, I would really love to go and see it be released."