Florida Highway Patrol trooper swoops in to help injured bald eagle

Florida Highway Patrol trooper swooped in to help a bald eagle that flew into a Jeep on Florida's Turnpike on Tuesday morning.

The adult male eagle hit the windshield of a Jeep Cherokee on Florida's Turnpike at about 7:30 a.m., Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Kim Montes said.

Trooper Julio Velez got to the scene, carefully approached the eagle, and put the stunned bird in the back of his patrol car while he waited for wildlife officials to arrive, Montes said. The eagle was taken to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland.

The Jeep driver was not injured, Montes said.

The eagle had no broken bones, said Dianna Flynt, rehabilitation supervisor at the Audubon Center. His muscles were sore from the crash, and his lead level was a bit higher than normal, she said.

"It looks very promising that he's releasable, but we do want to treat him for the lead level, internal parasites and any other issues that might arise," Flynt said.

The slightly elevated lead level may offer a hint about why the eagle was flying low enough to be hit by a car, Flynt said. It's also possible that he was trying to catch prey or flying low because of a different health problem.

When the eagle is fully recovered, Audubon officials plan to put a band on his leg and release him near St. Cloud, in case he was nesting in the area.

Florida had about 15,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in 2014, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The national bird has been off the federal endangered species list since 2007.

Tziperman Lotan writes for the Orlando Sentinel. 

glotan@orlandosentinel.com

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