Baby golden eagle survives Dump Fire

Posted at 9:36 PM, Jul 06, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-08 22:06:46-04

OGDEN, Utah - A baby golden eagle burned in one of Utah's wildfires was rescued and is now recovering in Ogden.

The Dump Fire burned more than 5,500 acres and forced evacuations in Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs after being sparked by humans on June 21.

The fire also destroyed the nesting site of a breeding pair of golden eagles. A wildlife expert knew the nest had burned, so when he returned days later, he was surprised to find a survivor.

"For him to survive something like that is just outstanding. There's just no words for it," said DaLyn Erickson, Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah.

Kent Keller found the eaglet on June 1 in a nest on a ledge above Eagle Mountain.

"He is a bird bander, so he goes up and bands these birds in the nest. That gives us longevity records of whats going on in the nest," said Erickson. "He was the single baby in the nest.

When Keller returned to the nest on July 4, he expected the eaglet, who was too young to fly, to be dead.

"He basically went back to retrieve a band. He went to close out the information; the data on the band. He went back thinking he was going to find a dead bird," said Erickson.

To his surprise, the bird was found badly burned but alive.

"The flames had to engulf his body because they're on the top of his head his back the under his wings they are on his legs," said Erickson.

The eagle has been aptly named Phoenix after the mythical bird who rose from ashes and began a new life.

Handlers say Phoenix has a long way to go, but his future looks promising. In spite of his beak being burned, he's started to eat on his own again and his health is improving each day.

They hope to eventually be able to release him back into the wild, but it won't happen until he can grow new feathers, which will take at least a year.