The traditional holiday season was changed for Steve Fergerson and his family when he went out to check on his cattle on Dec. 31.
Fergerson said he noticed a bird of some sort struggling to fly away. Thinking at first it was only a hawk, he realized after seeing it again two days later that it was most likely a juvenile eagle in need of help. Realizing that the raptor was not able to fly away he took a closer look. It was only able to hop away and simply could not take flight. Fergerson called a local Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency game official, Michael Cavins, who agreed to take it to the University of Tennessee Small Animals and Raptors Hospital if it could be captured.
Steve called for assistance from his brother Mike and sister-in-law Sandy Fergerson. They all dressed in thick coveralls and leather gloves to catch the eagle. After a few tries, the three managed to corner the eagle in the woods and finally gained control. After looking it over they noticed fishing line wrapped all around one wing. They also saw what they thought was a large fishing hooked that they assumed was left behind by a careless fisherman.
After placing the raptor into a pet carrier they contacted Cavins who transported it to Knoxville for treatment and to see if it was possible the eagle could receive rehabilitation. If everything was fine with the raptor it is traditional for the bird to be released near where it was found.
The Fergersons and all involved said they would like to use this as an opportunity to talk about trash left out around the woods and lakes in East Tennessee. Not only is it an eyesore, but it has a direct impact on local wildlife. Items such as six pack plastic, fishing lines, old cans and plastic bags can be deadly for many types of fish and wildlife. Countless animals are lost each year when careless people throw their trash out and litter.
It only takes a second to pick up your own trash or someone else’s left around our lakes and woods. You never know what good could become of caring for just a moment, he said.
When Cavins was asked about the eagle’s condition he contacted UT and replied, “It was only some soft tissue damage with no broken bones. As with most raptors it will soon be sent to the Eagle Foundation at Dollywood until it can once again fly. It will then be released.”
Many eagles and wildlife are not this lucky but this eagle got a second chance because the Fergersons took the time to care for the eagle. During the last ten years the Claiborne Progress has printed three different stories on injured raptors having to be taken for treatment and rehabilitation, one ended in the loss of a raptor and another ended with the bird unable to fly.
Cavins and other wildlife officials encourage people to be responsible and keep trash out of the beautiful outdoors.
Reach Allen Earl at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @pitchadude.