GREENFIELD — An injured bald eagle found along Interstate 70 in Hancock County on Wednesday morning has died, leaving locals to worry that this might mean the end of the county’s beloved eagle watch.
Police and wildlife experts said they believe the eagle — a female — was hit by a car earlier this week before being discovered Wednesday by a passer-by.
The eagle succumbed to its injuries mid-morning at an exotic animal clinic in Indianapolis.
Officials still are investigating whether the eagle was one of a pair that had taken up residence in a nest near Apple Street and New Road in Greenfield. But many who have made a hobby of watching the birds say they’re worried this could mean eagles won’t call the city home any longer.
Conservationists said they’ll watch in the coming days to see if the birds they’ve come to recognize return to their nest.
A passerby called 911 around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday after spotting the hurt bird along I-70, just east of the State Road 9.
With the help of a Henry County wildlife rehabilitator, first-responders collected the eagle and brought it to an animal clinic in Hamilton County that specializes in helping injured birds.
The specialists at the clinic believe the eagle was hit by a car at least 36 hours before it was found along the roadway, said Indiana Conservation Officer Jet Quillen. Its wing was broken in two places, and the injured areas were filled with bugs and grime, he said.
Veterinarians at the clinic thought they had stabilized the bird, Quillen said. They successfully cleaned the wound, and the animal was given fluids though an IV along with various pain medication, he said.
Then, around noon, the bird suffered a seizure and died, Quillen said.
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, officials said.
The local eagle’s nest was first discovered near the intersection on the city’s southeast side in 2015. A community of bird enthusiasts and interested onlookers quickly formed around them, taking to social media to share updates and photographs, chronicling their lives on the Greenfield Eagle Watch Facebook page, which boasts more than 5,000 members.
The original pair of eagles that settled in the nest had two sets of three eaglets before the male, in June 2016, was found dead along County Road 300E in Greenfield after apparently being hit by a car.
Residents, like Jason Lee of Greenfield, who founded the Greenfield Eagle Watch, worried that would be the end of the city’s fascination with the birds.
But the female returned to her nest the next spring with a new mate and laid another set of eggs, Lee said, giving locals reason to celebrate.
Now, however, that sense of worry that the remaining bird will find a new home has set in again, he said.
“We just have to cross our fingers and see,” Lee said. “There is always a 50/50 chance.”