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Published: Friday, 4/2/2004

Bald eagle to stand by at lecture

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ron Bowerman moves a red-tailed hawk at his home in Van Buren, Ohio. Ron Bowerman moves a red-tailed hawk at his home in Van Buren, Ohio.
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SWANTON - An American bald eagle, injured when her nest blew down in a storm, will be perched near a local naturalist as he talks about his 17 years working with injured birds in a free outdoor workshop tomorrow near Swanton.

Ron Bowerman, a naturalist for Van Buren and Mary Jane Thurston State Parks, will talk about caring for birds with injuries ranging from broken legs to concussions. With him will be the 5-year-old bald eagle, which the public may watch from about 25 feet away.

His presentation is one of nine 45-minute programs to be offered from noon to 3 p.m. at the Northwest Ohio Woodland & Wildlife Workshop at Lange Tree Farm, 5893 Fulton County Road 3, southwest of Swanton.

The bald eagle was a nestling in Iowa in the spring of 1999 when her nest fell. Such nests can weigh two tons; bald eagle pairs return to the same nest for decades and typically add to it every year.

The bald eagle's sibling died. But a volunteer eagle watcher alerted a fish and wildlife officer who arranged for the injured eagle to be flown to the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine Raptor Center.

Despite efforts there, the bald eagle's fracture did not heal properly and she cannot fly well. Repairing broken bones of birds is tricky in part because their bones are hollow, which allows them to be light enough to fly. The bald eagle weighs about 13 pounds and has a 7-foot wingspan.

Mr. Bowerman has cared for the bald eagle for years and last year took her to more than 20 public presentations. He feeds her one big rat a day, defrosted from the freezer and sliced open along the back, where he stuffs vitamins inside.

He said he has not named her because the bald eagle is in no way a pet. Federal law prohibits the public from touching bald eagles.

The bald eagle is the national bird of the United States, chosen in a close vote over the wild turkey, much to the dismay of Benjamin Franklin, who wrote that the turkey was "a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America."

Mr. Bowerman said there was another reason.

"An eagle is more of a scavenger than a hunter, and that's another reason Ben wanted the turkey," Mr. Bowerman said.

He typically works with 40 injured birds a year. About half recover enough to be released into the wild, he said. He has a core group of five volunteer assistants through Van Buren Friends of the Park. He is planning to turn over most of his work with injured birds to others soon.

Saturday's workshop participants may choose sessions on identifying the emerald ash borer and other forest threats, pruning, managing moisture for timber production, wildlife habitat, windbreaks, native hardwoods, chainsaw safety, attracting wildlife to woods, and a hands-on display of animal pelts.

The workshop is sponsored by the Northwest Ohio Woodland Association, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, and nine local county Soil and Water Conservation Districts. All events are outside, but the workshop is to be held rain or shine, host Walt Lange said.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419 724-6102.



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