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Eagle rescue attempt in Hastings ultimately ends in tragedy

Minnesota residents rush to save a baby eaglet that fell from a tree
Minnesota residents rush to save a baby eaglet that fell from a tree 02:01

HASTINGS, Minn. — An attempt to rescue three fallen eaglets in Hastings ultimately ended in tragedy early this week.

The three were nested in a tree along the Mississippi when high winds snapped the tree branch they had been perched upon.

Scott Northard noticed from his window – as he'd been watching the eaglets hatch and grow with a telescope positioned from the bluff above.

"I came down – kind of watched the little heads sticking up feeding from the mother – about 15 minutes later- the nest was gone," he said.

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Northard, who sits on the board of the Carpenter Nature Center, immediately called his contacts there – unsure if the eaglets had survived the fall.

Scott Northrad

A group mobilized quickly and began searching.

"We all went down to the area of the nest – which is very difficult to get to, because it's in a swampy area along the Mississippi River – between Lake Rebecca and the Mississippi River," Northard said.

Sadly, they found two baby eaglets already dead. Northard was unaware of a third baby until he heard chirping nearby.

"We got down on our knees and actually started looking around in all the debris. Buried underneath was one eaglet that survived and was cheeping," he said. "I had never seen all three heads sticking up in the nest before – I didn't realize there were
three this year."

Northard and his group were able to get the eaglet to the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center – but the damage was just too much. The baby eagle had five broken bones, internal bleeding and trauma to its internal organs. It died shortly after.

Still, doctors there credit Northard and members of the Carpenter Center for their quick work.

"I think the biggest thing for this individual family of bald eagles is how many people cared," said Dr. Dana Franzen-Klein of the Raptor Center. "How many people put in their time, energy, they dropped what they were doing to help this animal because they cared."

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"It was definitely an emotional moment for us – we'll remember it for a long time," Northard said. "When there's an animal in distress, especially an endangered species like eagles and others, there's a whole lot of committed and dedicated people that will come to their aid and do whatever we can."  

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