This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

EUREKA, Mo. – A bald eagle rescued along the Meramec River over the weekend has been sent to a state lab for testing after the bird died.

John Loida of Eureka said he and Sherry Spencer spent Sunday morning fishing and were enjoying an afternoon of casually riding around on his boat when they spotted an eagle along the riverbank.

bald eagle rescue
(Courtesy: John Loida)

As Loida piloted the boat closer to get a picture of the eagle, he noticed the animal was in distress. He said the bird rolled into the water and was in danger of drowning, so he and Spencer used their fishing net to scoop the eagle up and call for help.

Loida and Spencer arrived at a friend’s dock and phoned the World Bird Sanctuary, who dispatched a pair of animal technicians to examine the eagle.

The eagle, a female, appeared sick and looked to be in a bad way. The technicians agreed to take her back to the sanctuary for observation. They credited Loida and Spencer for their actions, saying if the pair hadn’t found the eagle when they did, she surely would have died along the riverbank.

Unfortunately, the eagle did not make it through the night. Loida said sanctuary staffers told him the following morning that the eagle likely died of avian flu.

Roger Holloway, executive director and CFO of the World Bird Sanctuary, said members of the Missouri Department of Conservation picked up the eagle carcass and will run tests to confirm the cause of death.

Holloway said MDS has already confirmed cases of avian flu in the area, so it would not be unexpected to discover it was the culprit. He said we should expect a couple more months of the illness in our area as birds migrate with the changing seasons.

bald eagle rescue
(Courtesy: John Loida)

Avian flu can infect a bird’s intestines and respiratory tract and can be passed through feces, nasal secretions, and saliva. The virus can also be spread when animals come into contact with surfaces contaminated by infected birds.

Bird-to-human transmission is rare. However, Holloway said humans can reduce their ability to spread the disease by watching their step around ponds, lakes, and other waterways. He warned people wash or disinfect their shoes after being out in nature to avoid tracking feces to other places.

The St. Louis County Health Department also recommends reporting any observed sick or dead birds to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

For his part, Loida said he cleaned his boat thoroughly after the rescue. He and Spencer, as well as his dog Hank, have shown no symptoms and remain in good health. He said the World Bird Sanctuary asked him to keep an eye out for any other sick or distressed birds and to report them.

Important information:
Missouri Department of Conservation – Avian Flu (For wild birds)
Missouri Department of Agriculture – Avian Flu (For domestic birds)