Evidence along Lincoln Highway west of Delphos indicates this bald eagle was struck by a vehicle Friday morning. The large bird of prey died at the scene. (Photo courtesy of Toni Cheray Wisher)
Evidence along Lincoln Highway west of Delphos indicates this bald eagle was struck by a vehicle Friday morning. The large bird of prey died at the scene. (Photo courtesy of Toni Cheray Wisher)

VAN WERT COUNTY — Friday, July the 13th was not a good day for Toni Cheray Wisher or the bald eagle she found laying on the side of the road approximately three miles west of Delphos.

“I first passed him on Lincoln Highway around 7:15 a.m.,” she said. “I noticed something off the side of the road but did not realize it was an eagle until after I went past. I turned around and drove back to see if it was injured.

“When I pulled up near him he fluttered his wings and tried to fly. I immediately knew he had been hit. There were still feathers laying on the road so I knew it must have been recent. Just then, two state highway patrol officers approached my car.

“I asked if someone had already called to report it and they said they were just stopping to see if I had car trouble. I pointed to the eagle and I don’t think they were expecting that,” she continued.

The officers approached the eagle and he fluttered closer to the road. They both immediately began directing traffic and protecting him from being hit again, according to Wisher.

“At 7:38 am, he raised his head up, spread his wings out completely opened up, took his last breath and died,” Wisher said with sadness.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, just a short 40 years ago, the bald eagle was in danger of extinction mainly due to the use of DDT, but also due to poachers and other poisonous pesticides. DDT was banned and the bald eagle has slowly been making a comeback, not only across the United States but right here in Tri-County area. Nests are popping up regularly. Photos of bald eagles fill the Facebook pages of all ages of users.

The bald eagle has been the national symbol of the United States since 1782. It is found on the Great Seal, the Presidential Seal, on several coins and paper money, postage stamps and countless other places. The bald eagle conveys power and symbolizes freedom, courage, honesty and truthful principles.

In 1967, the bald eagle ended up on the Endangered Species List. Federal laws, such as the Bald Eagle Protection Act, protect the bald eagle and have led to the increase of the population. Populations have improved so much that the bald eagle was removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007.

Van Wert and Putnam County currently have several bald eagle nests and most of these nests have eaglets that have hatched and are currently fledging. It takes about 35 days for an egg to hatch. The young remain in the nest up to 12 weeks before they fledge (fly from the nest). A young eagle will be all brown for the first years of its life and is sometimes mistaken for a hawk. The feathers of the head do not begin to turn white until the bird is near four or five years old.

“Watching those two officers protect that beautiful creature in its last moments — the symbol of so many things good in this country — is something I will never forget,” Wisher said.

No comments had been received from the State Highway Patrol or the ODNR at the time of this writing.