A golden eagle in distress: A photographer’s take | VailDaily.com
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A golden eagle in distress: A photographer’s take

Raymond Bleesz
Special to the Daily
Alive or dead? An injured golden eagle is seen laying in the snow in a cow pasture near Eagle.
Raymond Bleesz/Special to the Daily

Eagle County offers an abundance of natural wonders and scenic wildlife to photograph. On occasion, nature is not always so majestic and pretty, but at times distressful and heart-wrenching. I recently photographed an injured golden eagle, an “Aquila chrysaetos,” a bird of prey, that was rescued later in the day by good Samaritans. The eagle was placed in a rehab sanctuary.

It is most unusual to see and photograph an injured bird of prey with a very visible injury. Photos typically show the bird in all its glory, the general public in awe — however, this is not the case here.

The eagle’s eye shows attentiveness.
Raymond Bleesz/Special to the Daily

Here’s reality. The eagle’s crop/gullet was ruptured, the cause unknown. Injured animals, fowls, sea life are photographed and images posted the world over, images such as elephants in the African bush which are killed for their tusks or sea creatures caught in fishing nets. Locally, it’s not uncommon to see game entangled in barbed wire. We typically do not want to acknowledge such anguishing photos. I did over this eagle.



A closed eyelid indicates the eagle is experiencing stress.
Raymond Bleesz/Special to the Daily
A portrait showing both eyelids closed.
Raymond Bleesz/Special to the Daily

The golden eagle was spotted in a cow pasture outside of the town of Eagle up Brush Creek some distance from the road. The eagle was severely injured, distressed, as viewed initially in my pair of binoculars. It was “unusual,” in an abnormal condition, where the bird had bedded down in the cow pasture. I approached the injured eagle respectfully and in a slow methodical manner. An injury to its chest/breast area became more evident and is recorded in the following photos. I used my Panasonic G9 mirrorless camera and a 100-300 4.0-5.6f Panasonic zoom lens for these images.

The condition of the eagle looked critical, however, it made no moves of alarm as I approached because it was in a state of shock and weakness. The eagle dropped its head upon its chest numerous times. With head up, one could see clearly its ruptured chest, the gullet, crop area torn and exposed. Its eyes, at times “focused”, alert and at other times, its eyelids dropped as mortality beckoned. Such graphic images may cause negative reactions, the dark side of nature, yet the eagle showed resilience and a will to survive.



The gullet and crop of the injured eagle are shown in detail.
Raymond Bleesz/Special to the Daily

Presently the golden eagle is at the Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation located in Silt for raptor rehab and under care. The eagle may be released into the wild dependent upon its recovery. This photographer hopes for it. The National Audubon Society, as well as the Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation for conservation, rehabilitation, education are both noteworthy causes that can always use donations. Visit psswf.org/ or audobon.org to learn more.

Raymond Bleesz does not consider himself a wildlife photographer, but on occasion such as this, he works the medium as the situation was so unique and piqued his interest. His specialty is fine art photography which is shown in Denver galleries and locally. On occasions, he’s known to write short stories.


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