Wildlife photographer Alexandre Gilbert has seen a lot of animals in Squamish, but on March 4, he saw something that was rare in Squamish, even for experienced eyes like his.It was a golden eagle.
“I noticed this little guy couldn’t fly and he seemed a little bit disoriented,” said Gilbert.As a result, he took the eagle and alerted local Orphaned Wildlife, or OWL, volunteer Hazzard Roney.
Gilbert suspects the poisoning resulted from eating an animal that had lead in its system, possibly from ingesting something from the landfill.“As a local wildlife photographer, I [see] a lot of wild eagles,” said Gilbert. “I'm always out there watching them and observing them. To have the chance to rescue one of these birds — it was a strong emotion. To see them in the tree and take photos is a thing, but when you have a chance to touch them and interacting with the bird and save him, like, wow, I was like a kid during Christmas.”
The animal, which Gilbert named ‘Peanut,’ was put into rehabilitation for lead poisoning and an injured leg, and has since reached a happy milestone.On July 23, Peanut was well enough to be released back into the wild in the Upper Squamish Valley.
OWL informed Gilbert that it would be journeying to the area to release the bird, and he decided to go bid his feathered friend a fond farewell.“I was a bit nostalgic about the fact that I won't see him again,” he said. “But I was really happy that he made it and could be released.”
However, before Peanut flew back into the wild, Gilbert said he was nervous.When he first took the eagle out of the cage, he wondered whether the bird would be able to take off. The golden eagle hadn’t flown in months.
The bird of prey had also taken a few months off of hunting, and Gilbert worried that Peanut would have a tough time getting back in the habit of finding his own food.“Is he really OK? I was kind of overprotective of the bird. Just want to make sure he was really fine and that he was going to make it out there,” he said.
“I don’t want the same thing to happen to him again.”Gilbert said that anyone looking to help a distressed animal should be trained in basic rescue practices, as he was.
In case they aren’t, they should contact the proper authorities.In the end, Peanut made it safely back out in the wild. The biologist strapped a tracker onto the eagle to monitor its movements, as a golden eagle in Squamish is a rare occurrence.
“It's such a majestic bird,” said Gilbert. “When you look at these little guys in the eye, you have the right word for respect. They're majestic.”