‘Christmas Eve eagle’ rescued after being found sick along a snowy Nebraska road

It’s being called the Christmas Eve eagle.

A sick bald eagle found along a rural Nebraska road on Christmas Eve stands a chance at survival, thanks to a pair of sheriff’s deputies and others who helped the bird on that frigid night.

It’s now being treated at the Fontenelle Forest Raptor Recovery center near Elmwood.

Denise Lewis, interim director of the raptor recovery program, said the bird is suffering from lead poisoning. She said raptors sometimes ingest lead pellets when eating a dead animal that had been shot by a hunter.

Lewis said the eagle is being treated with a medication to reduce the extremely high lead level found in its blood.

Lewis said she is hopeful the bird will survive, but it’s too early to say for certain.

She said she’s grateful to those who helped the eagle.

“That was wonderful,’’ she said, “especially on Christmas Eve.”

A passing motorist first spotted the 11-pound bird laying in the snow near Richland, about 80 miles west of Omaha.

The motorist, Chase Lovell of Columbus, contacted the Colfax County Sheriff’s Office.

Sgt. Tony Hemmer and Deputy Brett Struebing responded to the call.

Hemmer said he and the deputy stayed with the bird for nearly two hours until a volunteer from the Nebraska raptor group arrived. Hemmer said he and the deputy wanted to protect the fallen eagle from coyotes that prowl the area.

Chad Witt, the volunteer with the raptor group, drove more than an hour from his Elkhorn-area home with his teenage son, Dylan, to pick up the bird.

Witt said the eagle wasn’t moving and couldn’t even stand when he lifted the bird from the snow.

Witt said he and his son didn’t mind giving up their Christmas Eve.

“It’s a good feeling to be able to go out and help these birds,’’ he said.

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