Eagles rescued after storm destroys Sevierville nest

Jun. 05, 2013 @ 05:19 PM

American Eagle Foundation staff and volunteers rescued two juvenile bald eagles Monday after a Sunday storm sent their nest plummeting 75 feet to the ground.

Foundation photographer and volunteer John Prickett received a call Monday afternoon from an anonymous source saying the nest, which used to sit in a tree in the field adjacent to Kroger on Highway 66 (Winfield Dunn Parkway), was gone.

Prickett and other staff members got to the area around 4 p.m. They waded through the thick brush under the tree and found the two 6-week-old eagles within an hour.

"It's a tragic story with a good ending," Prickett said.

The two eaglets are now at UT's College of Veterinary Medicine receiving treatment. Prickett said the larger of the two birds made out well, but the smaller had broken its left wing in three places during the fall.

"The small one had some blood on its wing and maggots had already gotten in there, so they could have been down there 24 hours," Prickett said. "It will be touch-and-go with that one."

Prickett anticipates that the larger eagle will be releasable in the next six or seven weeks. The fate of the smaller eagle is less certain.

"Right now the wing is pinned, and we have to see if it's able to fly and fly well enough," Prickett said. "If it's determined that it can't, the American Eagle Foundation will keep it."

Foundation President Al Cecere was hopeful that the bird would recover.

"We're hoping that because it's a young bird it will recover nicely, but we don't know for sure," Cecere said.

If it doesn't recover, Prickett said the eagle could end up at Dollywood's Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, as part of a breeding pair, or as an educational bird.

"It will have a good life no matter where it ends up, but the hope is that it can still fly," Prickett said.

These eagles have not had it easy.

The family of eagles, dubbed the "Kroger eagles" by Prickett, had attracted a lot of attention from shoppers, who could spot the nest from the Kroger parking lot. The foundation put up signs in the lot warning spectators to remain at least 300 feet from the nest.

Then in April, a controversy involving helicopters flying too close to the nest resulted in two helicopter tour companies changing their routes.

The foundation claimed the noise from the helicopters was bothering the male and female adult eagles, which had already laid their two eggs.

Now, Prickett said, the adults are still hanging around the area with no nest to return to. Prickett doesn't know whether they will rebuild a nest there or not.

"It's a sad picture," Prickett said. "The female brought a fish to where the nest was and just sat there. After a while, she flew away toward the river."

rhargett@themountainpress.com