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Eagle expected to die unless leg-hold trap is removed, expert says

Last Updated Feb 4, 2016 at 2:00 pm PST

Residents of a Newfoundland town are hoping a majestic bald eagle flying around with one claw snagged in a trap can be helped, but so far it has only been caught on camera. An expert in wildlife rescues says a bald eagle spotted flying in eastern Newfoundland with a leg-hold trap on one of its talons is unlikely to survive unless the device is soon removed. Hope Swinimer says the big bird of prey, last seen near a dump in Clarenville, needs its sharp claws for hunting. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Harry White

CLARENVILLE, N.L. – A bald eagle spotted flying in eastern Newfoundland with a leg-hold trap on one of its talons is unlikely to survive unless the device is soon removed, an expert in wildlife rescues says.

Hope Swinimer said the big bird of prey, last seen near the dump in Clarenville, needs its sharp claws for hunting.

“They can put up with a lot, but their feet are their life-line,” said Swinimer, founder of Hope for Wildlife in Seaforth, N.S. “These tend to be really tough cases. Usually, a lot of damage has been done from these traps … We get cases every year.”

Amateur photographer Harry White, who has been taking photographs of the adult eagle in flight and on the ground for about three weeks, said a small, D-shaped trap — probably used to grab mink — appears to have snapped shut on the centre talon of the eagle’s left claw.

Last week, Swinimer’s shelter took in a red-tailed hawk that had lost a leg to a similar trap. It had to be destroyed.

“There was nothing we could do to fix it,” she said.

Swinimer said the eagle in Newfoundland could be captured using long nets and raw meat as bait.

“They love their meat,” she said. “It would be pretty easy to lure it … This bird is probably really suffering and half-starving. There’s probably no reason in the world this bird couldn’t fly free once it’s had a chance to heal.”

White said two conservation officers showed up at the dump Thursday afternoon to try and capture the eagle. He said they deployed two special guns that can fire nets and then spread a collection of fleshy moose bones on the ground.

Several eagles showed up to feed, but the one with the trap did not.

White said the raptor was first spotted by another photographer Jan. 11.

A spokesman at the Salmonier Nature Park in eastern Newfoundland confirmed that the bird, if captured, would be taken to the park for rehabilitation if it was a suitable candidate for recovery.