13 March 2017
Griffith to the Rescue
Jenni Benson, USAG Public Affairs
On a cool morning in late February, Assistant Chief with the Fort Detrick Fire Department Oley Griffith, his son Andrew and a family friend went out to maintain a property in Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore where the three typically enjoy outdoor activities. They had no idea that within a few short hours they would be face-to-face with the American emblem of strength and majesty, the bald eagle.

This one however was seriously injured.

The swampy area was full of flooded timber that the men were clearing away when Andrew spotted something hopping across the path.

"I think that was an eagle," said Andrew.

At first, they thought that the bird had just caught prey and was having trouble launching into the air with it, but as they proceeded with caution and got a little closer, they noticed the bird was injured with a hurt leg and wing. Right then they made the decision to try and save this magnificent creature. Being an avid outdoorsman and a trained fire fighter, Griffith is use to springing into action and adjusting on the fly when needed. On this day, this injured bird was the beneficiary of Griffith’s heroics.

The three men and the eagle just happened to be in the part of the swampy area where they had a patch of dry land in order to corral him on.

"We wrapped him in a blanket, picked him up and made our way back to the Argo, a land/water vehicle, so that we could get to the truck, get back to a better cell area and make some calls to see what our next step should be and to get a better assessment of the situation," said Griffith.

"I’m an outdoorsman and I think it’s just instinct to want to help something that’s hurt," Griffith went on. "However, you have to use caution and common sense when you approach any animal. An eagle is a predator and those talons and the beak can hurt you, so don’t approach if you don’t have the right gear to help."

During travel the eagle was making use of his talons by digging them into Griffith’s legs, sides and they even pierced Griffith’s gloves, at which point he wondered if they had done the right thing.

"I knew it was important to rescue this bird and we weren’t going to give up until we knew he was safe," said Griffith, so they kept on.

Once they got back to a roadway, and after several phone calls, they were able to reach someone with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and were told to wait for an officer to come to their location to retrieve the eagle.

The eagle, now wrapped in a hoodie and secure in the truck with the air conditioner blowing on him, seemed to calm down and start to relax.

"It was a good thing I had on my sunglasses because before we got him calm his beak almost got me in the face," said Griffith.

"I’ve seen bird demonstrations at events, but I’ve never encountered one in the wild like this, it was an amazing experience," Griffith continued. "My son said it was like holding freedom and really was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Since our encounter I’ve been doing research on eagles and I have newfound respect for these wonderful creatures. The one we found was between five and eight years of age."

The eagle is now in a rehabilitation center in Delaware and, according to the DNR officer, had the Griffiths’ not found the bird when they did he would have perished.

The cause of the birds injuries were not known, but because he was so far away from a road or highway they don’t think he was hit by a car; perhaps a scuffle with another eagle or predator caused the birds injuries.

"We haven’t gotten a call back from the rehab center, but we’re hoping he’s on the road to recovery," said Griffith. "This was really an amazing experience, to be able to rescue the symbol of our country is something we won’t ever forget."

If you happen to encounter injured wildlife the best thing to do is contact Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources by calling their wildlife services division at (877) 463-6497, or visit: http://dnr2.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/plants_wildlife/sickorinjured.aspx.
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