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One eagle downed as another takes flight

Urban sprawl increases need for rehabilitation
By: Lien Hoang, The Press Tribune
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Gary Boberg knows many falconers and most of them, he says, would train a falcon over an eagle any day. Eagles are dangerous and unpredictable. Their talons, which grip 1,000 pounds per square inch, will slice clean through a person’s hand. “A falcon can grab you and bite you and it’ll hurt,” Boberg says, but “eagles will send you to the hospital.” Still, the raptor expert drove up to Roseville from San Diego on Thursday to pick up the second eagle he’s ever trained in his 40 years of experience. The chick, born this year, is one of two unrelated, female golden eagles recently rehabilitated through the Roseville-based California Foundation for Birds of Prey. Working with the Bird and Pet Clinic of Roseville, at 3985 Foothills Blvd., the nonprofit foundation has been around more than 20 years. It now sees 260 to 280 birds yearly, compared with 60 in the 1980s. Of those, four to seven are eagles “We’ve been growing by leaps and bounds,” foundation president Dr. Vickie Joseph says. But that growth is a mixed blessing. In part, the foundation is receiving more birds of prey to treat because of ever-increasing encroachment. As humans develop farther into raptors’ habitat, they present more and more dangers: electrocution, glass windows that look invisible to birds, car collisions. The perils are greater during the cold seasons. “A lot of our injuries are man-caused,” Joseph says. The interference is getting in the way of Boberg’s volunteer work, too. Urban sprawl has made it tougher for Boberg to find training ground. “You have to go farther and farther to find open areas,” he says. Boberg will not be coaching the other eagle that the foundation has taken under its wing. She is at least 5 years old and will go to the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary in January because she is non-releasable. Joseph says she is treating the eagle for a low-grade respiratory infection. In July, people found the bird with an injured wing and covered with mud at some sort of mining or construction site in El Dorado Hills. The fledgling bird was found without parents a few months earlier in Folsom. Both were frail. All raptors get a medical examination, including X-rays, bloodwork and anesthesia, before the foundation sends them to an eagle flight chamber in Lincoln. The 4,000-square-foot tract can hold up to five birds, who remain on average six months to socialize with one another without too much human interaction. The older eagle comes at an opportune time for the Folsom zoo sanctuary, which recently euthanized one of the two eagles it typically hosts because he was old and sick. While the shelter prefers to release animals to the wild, this newest arrival will bring needed companionship to the bird already on site. “(Joseph’s) organization makes such a big impact on all the birds every year that are brought in,” zoo sanctuary supervisor Jill Lute says. As for the fledgling eagle, Boberg will likely work with it for two years. Eagles require the longest training, which involves honing their strength and timing skills to hunt for food. After time in captivity, raptors released without training will starve 99 percent of the time. But few take on the work, and Boberg says that because he becomes attached to the animals, he favors falcons, which he can keep, unlike eagles. “It’s very difficult to let them go,” he says. Lien Hoang can be reached at lienh@goldcountrymedia.com.