GREENFIELD — Scott Johnson has gotten the phone call dozens of times: a bald eagle is dead in the road.
It always turns out to be a Canada goose or some type of hawk — never a bald eagle. That was until this week.
When Johnson, who has been an Indiana Department of Natural Resources officer for 16 years, arrived at 5500 N. 300E Tuesday, he knew right away the deceased bird he’d been called about was a bald eagle.
The dead eagle was the male of the pair nesting near Apple Street and New Road in Greenfield. A DNR biologist and a local veterinarian determined the eagle died from severe internal injuries, possibly from being hit by a vehicle or from electrocution after striking a power line, Johnson wrote in an email.
The bald eagle’s remains will be sent to the National Eagle Repository in Commerce City, Colorado. The eagle’s body will be used for education, and in accordance with federal standards, the eagle’s feathers will be distributed to documented Native Americans, Johnson said.
On Wednesday, the discovery of a dead bald eagle near Greenfield sent waves of sadness through a small but enthusiastic community of eagle-watchers and photographers who meet online to share photos and videos of Greenfield’s eagles on the Greenfield Eagle Watch Facebook group.
Greenfield resident Jason Lee discovered the nest and created the Facebook group to share his photographs of the eagle pair. Other photography and eagle enthusiasts have watched the mated pair for about a year, rooting for their eaglets from the moment the eggs were laid.
Many residents visited the site of the nest often to get a peek at Greenfield’s eagles. Dawn Epperson drove out of her way regularly for a visit. Sometimes, she’d pack up her grandkids and take them along for the ride.
Last year, there were three eaglets and two flew from the nest once they were old enough, the other didn’t survive, Lee said. This year, three eaglets hatched and should be ready to leave the nest soon, he said.
The female adult bald eagle will care for the eaglets until they leave the nest, Johnson said. After that, the young eagles will be able to care for themselves.
Johnson said the female could return to nest next year with a new mate, but there’s no guarantee. She could also find a new place to build.
Though that specific female bald eagle may not return, the nest is likely to attract other eagles, or perhaps even great horned owls, Lee said.
Epperson has found herself thinking often about the eagle nest this spring, especially when severe weather moves into the area. Last year, the eagle’s nest was destroyed during a storm, and the pair had to rebuild. But she didn’t worry quite as much about the adult eagles as she did the eaglets, she said.
“You don’t really stop to think about how something like that is going to affect you,” she said. “When we drive by, now we’re only going to see one of them.”