Battling Bald Eagles Land on Minn. Runway

11:31 AM, May 15, 2013   |    comments
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DULUTH (KARE11) - Bald eagles are majestic creatures, able to fly with speed, grace and singular purpose.

That is, unless they're tangled up with a rival.

Two adult bald eagles made a crash landing on the tarmac at Duluth International Airport Sunday after locking talons during an in-air battle.

The eagles had locked talons in mid-air and couldn't get separated before they crashed to the concrete, Randy Hanzal, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told the Duluth News Tribune.

Although they came down hard, both birds survived the crash landing but they remained entangled. 

"Their talons were embedded in each other very deeply," Hanzal said.

An employee at an aircraft maintenance facility saw the birds fall and called the DNR, which sent officer Hanzal to investigate. He collected the birds and tried to transport them to a local wildlife rehabilitation organization in Duluth.

Hanzal didn't have a portable cage large enough to contain the eagles, so he put them in the back of the pickup and covered them with blankets and jackets. The DNR officer strapped them down with webbing straps and took off for Wildwoods, about two miles away.

"Halfway to the rehabber, there was a ruckus in the back of the truck," Hanzal said. "I looked around and saw feathers flying up. One of the eagles jumped out the back, onto my tailgate."

That eagle flew away, but the other remained in the truck bed. Hanzal covered and strapped it down, and continued the drive to Wildwoods. Early Monday, that bird was transported to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul where it is being treated for injuries sustained in the fight.

Julie Ponder of the Raptor Center told the News Tribune that the prognosis for the eagle is good despite the fact that it had some deep puncture wounds in its leg and one deep abdominal puncture.

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