BOZEMAN — Somewhere high in a tree south of Clarkston, two bald eagle chicks are settling into a new home.
After less than a week at the Montana Raptor Conservation Center, the two eaglets rescued from a nest in Bozeman were placed in a new nest Wednesday, giving them another shot at life in the wild.
The relocation involved the help of state wildlife officials, a willing landowner and a volunteer climber who rescued the chicks and eventually hauled them up to the new nest, said Becky Kean, rehabilitation director at the raptor center.
“We’re pretty proud of how it all worked out,” Kean told t he Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
The eaglets were rescued April 24 after two adult bald eagles were found dead below the nest on state trust lands just east of Interstate 90 in north Bozeman, according to a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks news release.
No cause of death has been identified for the eagles. The birds have been turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is investigating their deaths.
A climber got the chicks down from the nest — about 75 feet high, Kean estimated — and the birds were taken to the raptor center. The chicks were in good condition.
Eagles can’t be raised in captivity and released, so the best chance for the birds to survive in the wild was finding an active nest where they could be taken in by adult eagles. Adults will typically adopt orphaned eaglets placed in their nests.
FWP and the raptor center went to work looking for a place to put the birds. Kean said they needed an agricultural area, open water and adult eagles that were already taking care of chicks near the same age, but not too many chicks.
A nest on private land near the Missouri River south of Clarkston met all those criteria. The landowner agreed to accommodate the chicks, and Montana Rail Link allowed access to the property via one of its roads.
All they had to do now was reach the nest. Bringing machinery in wasn’t an option. They needed the climber again.
Kean said the raptor center found the person through a volunteer who works at Spire, the climbing gym.
“He was the last piece of the puzzle to come together and one of the most important,” Kean said. “He was extremely good at what he did.”
The new nest was a little higher than the original, Kean said, and it was a more technical climb. Then there were the adult eagles themselves, flying close to the nest to protect the other chicks while a human scaled the tree.
But the eaglets were placed safely into the nest without issue. The two orphans had spent just five days at the raptor center.
“It’s pretty amazing when you wrap your head around it,” Kean said.
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