Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

April 8, 2014

The (bald) Eagle has landed

Encountered along Red Devil Lane early Sunday

FLATWOODS — Rusty Vanhoose has seen lots of wildlife in the woods behind his home, although he says he’s never seen anything quite like the big bird he encountered along Red Devil Lane early Sunday.

“I was going to Kroger, and I was going down Red Devil Lane just past the primary school. Something very large flew away from something lying on the sidewalk,” Vanhoose said. “As I slowed to stop at the red light, it circled and landed again behind me, so I backed up and turned in the lot at the foot of the hill and could not believe what I was seeing — a bald eagle, in Flatwoods!”

Noting he often sees hawks and other birds of prey in the area, Vanhoose said he was sure this bird was something unusual. The bald eagle appeared to have killed something, possibly a groundhog, which was on a nearby sidewalk, Vanhoose said. Shortly after he spotted the bird, he said he grabbed the camera on his phone and shot a picture of the eagle flying along the turn lane in the center of the road.

“His wingspan looked like it was the width of that turn lane — 6 to 8 feet,” he said, estimating the bird was 36 to 38 inches tall when it landed a short distance away, allowing him another chance to get a photo.

“It was very cautious of me, but I tried to get a picture with my phone, and did just above the teachers’ entrance to the primary school,” he said. “It was not a very good picture, but here it is. I have always wanted to see one, but never took the time to visit Yatesville (Lake) or Cave Run (Lake). I have heard they have eagles at both places.”

Vanhoose said he had previously seen a bald eagle in captivity at the Kentucky Game Farm, but that bird appeared much older than the free-flying eagle he saw in Flatwoods. “This was the first time I’ve ever seen one in the wild,” he said, noting he theorized the wild bird was younger than the captive bird because the feathers on its head seemed a bit darker, indicating a less mature specimen.

Noting he lives near a wooded area behind Dave’s Bakery, Vanhoose said he and a neighbor had recently been discussing the decline in their neighborhood squirrel population because of predators such as red-tail hawks.

“When I saw this I thought, ‘Boy the game has changed now,’” he said with a chuckle.

The bald eagle is the national bird and animal. During the late 20th century the species “was on the brink of extirpation in the continental United States,” according to Wikipedia. Populations recovered, however, and the species was removed from the federal government's list of endangered species in 1995 and transferred to the list of threatened species. It was removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in the lower 48 states in 2007.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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