PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A bald eagle rescued near the border of Maine and Canada appears to be the oldest — nearly 34 years old — ever documented in Maine.
Maine Game Warden Joe McBrine and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officer Amanda Hardaswick rescued the bird on Friday after responding to a call of an injured eagle in the township of Trescott, at the state’s eastern tip.
Wildlife officials found a band on the bird’s leg and ran it through a database to learn that it had been banded shortly after hatching on June 21, 1983, on Grand Manan Island in Canada. That’s far beyond the average bald eagle lifespan of about 20 years in the wild.
“It definitely had to be a hardy bird to put up with some harsh conditions, especially with the winters up here,” Hardaswick said.
The eagle has been nicknamed “The Old Man” at a rehabilitation facility.
The old fella comes close to being the oldest anywhere in the wild. A specimen that was believed to be the oldest banded bald eagle in U.S. history was found dead at age 38 in upstate New York in 2015.
The rescued eagle has a “fairly serious” wing injury and it will be at least two weeks before veterinarians are able to say if he can be re-released into the wild, said Diane Winn, executive director of Avian Haven in Freedom, which is caring for the eagle.
The bird is also recovering from lead exposure, which happens to eagles when they scavenge carcasses of animals that have the remains of lead ammunition in them, Winn said. It also appears to have been in a fight with another eagle, she said.
“That lead exposure, in combination with his age, probably contributed to his being unable to defend himself,” Winn said.
Bald eagles have made a tremendous comeback in the United States, where they were once nearing the brink of extinction. Pesticides, habitat loss and indiscriminate hunting were blamed, and new federal protections helped the birds recover so much they were removed from the endangered species list in 2007.
The bird was found by a lobsterman in Trescott, which is located near Lubec, about 210 miles (338 kilometers) northeast of Portland.