Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

Tempting bait: Eagle hooked on fishing lure

 


Wildlife officials are on the lookout for a bald eagle possibly sporting some unwanted bling.

The bird that apparently dove on a fishing lure in Letnikof Cove was last seen in a nearby tree with the lure and some line still attached.

Seasonal harbor employee Josh Benassi was working at the Letnikof Harbor on June 11 when the eagle became hooked about 100 yards offshore.

“I looked over and I saw an eagle hit the water and then fly out of the water with a line and a lure attached to it. Then it flew around for a bit and the line broke – I don’t know if they cut it – and it flew around for half an hour with the lure and line hanging off it, trying to gain height but couldn’t do it,” Benassi said.

Benassi speculated the eagle saw a fisherman’s lure shining close to the surface and, believing it was a fish, went in after it with its talons.

Raptor curator Dan Hart at the American Bald Eagle Foundation sent raptor handler Brian Kurtzman out to the cove to bring the eagle in. But by the time Kurtzman arrived, the raptor had made its way up into the trees and could not be captured.

Hart said he is concerned because witnesses seem unsure of where exactly the eagle had been hooked. If the hook was lodged anywhere around the beak, mouth or eye, the bird will likely die, Hart said.

“We’ve seen eagles in trees that otherwise look like beautiful birds, but they have things stuck in the beak or throat and they’re just sitting there starving to death because they can’t eat,” Hart said.

Hart advised any fisherman who hooks a bird not to cut the line. “If they can bring it with and we can get our hands on it, then we can get the hook out. If they can fly away, we can’t do anything about it,” he said.

Eagle foundation director Cheryl McRoberts said she has never heard of an eagle being hooked by a fisherman in the area. “This is a first for us,” she said.

“I don’t know how that could have happened. An eagle will come down and try to steal the fish off the hook, but not get hooked,” McRoberts said.

Anyone spotting the injured bird should call the eagle foundation at 766-3094.