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From the Asbury Park Press


Nov. 26, 2009

Bald eagle rescued 500 miles from Pine Barrens

Jersey Girl finds friends 500 miles from Pine Barrens


An 8-month-old bald eagle that survived an extraordinary 500-mile journey from the Pine Barrens to Downeast Maine is now living in its new home — after some human help from other New Jersey expatriates.

Dubbed Jersey Girl by wildlife rehabilitators, the young eagle hatched last April in a nest at the Franklin Parker Preserve near Chatsworth in Burlington County, according to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, which manages the 9,400-acre former cranberry farm. Biologists banded the bird May 20, and, sometime in early July, Jersey Girl fledged, flying from her parents' nest.

Weeks later, Steve Resotko, a retired auto mechanic and Pompton Plains native who lives in Steuben, Me. was motoring in his 14-foot open boat across Dyer Bay in Washington County.

"The boat ramp is very close. I go out there almost every day," said Resotko, a wildlife photographer. "There are eight islands out there, but it was two days after hurricane Bill, and it was still rough. So I turned around and was coming back along the west side when I saw what I thought was just a log or a stick."

Resotko went for a closer look, and realized it was a young eagle, like others he had photographed along the bay. But something was not right.

"Usually you get within 75 yards, and they take off," he said. "I knew something was wrong. I shut the motor off and paddled a little ways off."

As he slowly walked toward the eagle, Resotko said, it hopped away from him, and he could see it was severely weakened. "I figured, well, I'll capture it and make a few phone calls," he said. "I knew if I didn't do anything, the coyotes would have gotten to it."

It took a few tries, but Resotko was finally able to drape his coat over the eagle's head and hold the wings to its body. He laid the bird in the bottom of the boat and headed back to the ramp. At a lobster pound near the landing, a state inspector warned Resotko he would get in trouble for capturing the bird, but the photographer replied it needed help.

After consulting by phone with wildlife volunteers, Resotko handed the eagle off to a worker with Avian Haven, a bird rehabilitation group in Freedom, Me. It weighed just 6 pounds when it arrived, recalled Diane Winn, co-founder of Avian Haven.
"We got the bird in on Aug. 25. It was extremely thin. There weren't any obvious injuries," she said. "What we noticed right away was it appeared to be a first-year bird, and its band wasn't a Maine band."

The green metal tag indicated it was from New Jersey, Winn said.

"Eagles do leave their home areas" once they fledge from the parents' nest, Winn said. It's unusual for a New Jersey eagle to fly north, and so far, she added.

"But this bird was found two days after hurricane Bill came through Maine," she added. "It's possible she hitched a ride on the storm."

Winn said rehabilitators started treating the bird with electrolyte fluids before moving on to liquid food. "We were a little concerned because for the first few days she hardly moved at all. She just stood there with her head down," Winn said.

Then after three days, the bird "came alive," grabbing at solid food and "challenging the bars on her hospital cage," Winn said.

A call from Kathleen Clark, the eagle expert with the New Jersey Endangered and Non-Game Species Program, confirmed the band number matched that for the Chatsworth eaglet. The rehabilitators had dubbed the eagle Jersey Girl, after the title of a Bruce Springsteen song.

With the eagle's weight back up to 10.5 pounds and her flying around a cage at the refuge, haven workers and biologists agreed Jersey Girl would do well in the Maine wilds. Terry Heitz, a native of Egg Harbor City who works at Avian Haven and built its flight cages, released Jersey Girl and two other eagles at Merrymeeting Bay.

"It's a known hangout for eagles," Winn said.


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