'Bey' the eagle is back home but her story is far from over
By Kersti Muul
For the last 30 days I have been in a whirlwind of anxiety over a sick eagle. I have spent multiple hours each day tracking, mapping, researching, corresponding, analyzing, engaging the community, fretting and fundraising. The deeper I dug, the more invested I became and the more humbled I felt as I watched our community come together to help this particular animal. I also used my skills as a scientific translator to explain why, and how I was doing what I was doing. End-game, get the eagle home, and hopefully reunited with her mate. I needed all this information and participation to prove her home was Alki, and we did just that.
On Thursday, February 25, 2021, I received a call from the Marine Mammal Stranding Network regarding a grounded eagle at Alki. Alki resident Barb Vadakin first spotted the eagle, and helped tape off a protective area for the eagle until help could arrive. Vets from SR3 (Sealife Response, Rehabilitation and Rescue) were en route, and I was going to assist with capture if needed, and transport the eagle to PAWS.
The eagle had not flown from her spot in over two hours, and she appeared sick to me. Although it is not abnormal for an eagle to be on the ground either eating, foraging, or even resting from a territorial dual (especially this time of year), it was obvious that she was not well. Furthermore, it is not normal in this area.
WDFW had shown up on scene and attempted unsuccessfully to capture her multiple times. She took very short, strained flights. Being exhausted and stressed, she was finally captured using a snare around her right leg. As I watched her flight, she seemed structurally OK.
When admitted to PAWS that afternoon, the eagle was very sick. She had hemorrhagic diarrhea, was severely anemic and hypoproteinemic (very low blood protein). I inquired if rodenticide could be a culprit, but hemorrhagic diarrhea is not a typical symptom. She was given Vitamin K therapy just in case, as well as antibiotics, and probiotics. Luckily for her, there was a golden eagle in rehab, and she was able to receive a blood transfusion from it. She perked up a lot from the transfusion. How cool is that?!! Over the weekend she ate and continued to perk up.
By March 8, she was doing so well that she was banded, and moved to the flight enclosure where she could begin to exercise and get her strength back.
During the capture, I noticed an anomaly in her left iris and was able to match her to my photos from the summer, as well as some sent from Alki resident Sharon Wada. This was crucial information because that made her an Alki resident eagle, as well as part of a bonded, mated pair. I sent out requests for photos of the pair to see if they were present year round. I received further photos from another Alki resident James Tilley, which proved the pair was present at various times of the year. Sharon knew this pair well and had lovingly named them 'Bey' and 'Jay'. COVID lockdowns and working from home had afforded her an opportunity to view local wildlife more. A welcome benefit during these hard times.
My point in doing this was to ensure that this eagle would be released back home, with the potential to be reunited with her mate. My next project was trying to determine if she was one of the mated pairs from either the Salty's nest, or the Schmitz Park nest. After two weeks of chasing lone eagles around, coupled with all the amazing sightings from the Schmitz Park nest residents, and the Alki Community, I was able to determine that she did not belong to either of these historic nests. She is either part of a newly bonded pair, (not having yet built a nest), or the pair has a nest in a yet undiscovered location. During this time, I received a message from North Admiral resident Kathy Lower about a lone eagle sitting and vocalizing for hours at a time, at the end of her street. I inferred from the behavior that this must be Bey's mate, and he was looking for her. It is not well known how long an eagle would wait for its mate, in this type of circumstance, and I was afraid the longer she was gone, he would give up and leave to recruit another female. Bey was rapidly recovering, but would it be fast enough?
On Friday, March 12, I received a call from PAWS wildlife biologist and naturalist, Jeff Brown. Bey was doing so well, she was going to be released on Tuesday if she passed her final blood work.
He consulted with me about where to do the release, based on my research of the other mated pairs' nests, and Bey's territory and 'relationship status'. The perfect spot was selected where she could perch and rest after release, and not be in the other pairs' nesting territory.
On Tuesday morning, March 16, Bey passed her blood work with flying colors and the release was on. I met PAWS at the release site around 1:15 PM. I was so nervous awaiting her arrival. I was pacing back and forth in the grass. It's a long stressful ride for an eagle from Lynnwood to West Seattle. My nerves calmed as I met the biologist and the philanthropy officer, as well as Jon, the other person present for the release.
I walked over to the truck, and the closer I got, the more I had to force back tears. I couldn't believe Bey was actually there. I placed my hands on her covered crate, acknowledged her, and let a few tears escape. But this was time for the business of getting her out of there, I could settle up my emotions later.
We gently carried her crate across the grass, and she wasn't nearly as heavy as I imagined. We set her down, and set the cameras up.
Bey was spring loaded inside her crate. As I slid the long kevlar gloves along my forearms, I could hear her wings and talons scratching against the resin sides; her eagerness to rejoin a once wild existence, and her mate, was palpable.
I carefully lifted the door, stepping away quickly so she wouldn't see my face. She pounced out, and bounce-flew several feet before landing and shaking the captivity from herself.
There she sat on the edge of the berm, the sun bright on her cocked white head, blue-black crows already bombing this new arrival. She took everything in, cautiously observing her situation. Through my long lens I saw the characteristic iris of her left eye, that started me on this journey with her.
Bey sat for ten minutes before she flew. She flew with purpose into the wind and towards what I know to be her territory. Talons balled into little fists as she lifted off, her bands reflective in the afternoon sun. These bands would prove crucial in the coming days.
Later that afternoon, my friend Brittany Noelle, partner Jeff Hogan and I found her. I then tracked her for two days after the release. She went to what I later found out was the pair's dedicated tree. Ironically this tree sits in front of my favorite house. I had previously seen eagles here many times. Never knowing it was Bey, or that our paths would one day cross so dramatically.
Bey sat there for hours vocalizing, calling for her mate, after being gone for 20 days. It was heart wrenching. I followed her on day two to another tree southeast of their tree. Low and behold it was where the lone male had been vocalizing and looking for her the previous week.
But then Bey disappeared for 6 days.
Yesterday, March 25, I received a message from James Tilley about a pair soaring around Alki. Since this is not unusual on any day of the week at Alki, I asked him if one was banded. Sure enough one was. I inquired about the behavior. I was able to infer courtship style behavior from his description. He sent me the photos and one eagle was smaller. A male! I could not contain my excitement as I sped down the hill to the Beach. I found Bey later but she was alone, and I spent all afternoon looking, but didn't spot her again.
Then I received a message from West Seattleite Jerry Simmons, inquiring if I thought the eagle in his pictures was banded. It was indeed. It was Bey and she was involved in some aerial displays with three subadults. Bey's location confirmed my suspicions of her territory being more southward, as she was all the down by the Rite-Aid in the Junction!
Today I was supposed to have many meetings and appointments, but the universe decided that they would not happen. In my newly freed up time, I decided to take one last check to see if I could find Bey with this male. I looked and looked unsuccessfully, and ended up taking a wrong turn, wasting several minutes and going back home a different way than I had intended.
On my last turn I heard the distinct call of eagles.
I looked out of the sunroof and right above me were two eagles.
I hopped out of the car and watched them soaring and vocalizing, very much in courtship style, touching wings and backing away, over and over. I took several photos, put the camera down and just watched. They flew so high they disappeared.
Bey and Jay had found each other.
The tears I had choked back during the release, were now free to fall.
If you see Bey, please let me know. If you are able to read her bands, please report them as well. She has a sliver (federal) band, and a green color marker band (high vis):
firstname.lastname@example.org (or) 360-317-4646
Thank you to everyone who helped Bey get home through either sightings, photos, historical information, first response, vet care/rehab and all the wonderful donations for her care. My fundraiser has raised $1910 and is being matched.
Kersti E. Muul
Urban Wildlife First Responder
Such an awesome outcome! Thank you Kersti and everyone involved in helping Bey!
What an amazing, heartwrenching, and beautiful story. Thank you for what you do 💕
Thank you for sharing. I have been following Bey s story and am excited that her story continues to be uplifting. Thank you for all you do.