Two bald eagle chicks rescued from the shore of Whitefish Lake during last week’s heavy rainfall are eating a lot of fish.
So many fish, in fact, that a volunteer at the Montana Wild Wings Recovery Center where the baby birds are being nurtured has come up with an innovative way to keep the center’s freezer stocked with trout.
Doug MacCarter, an educator, wildlife biologist and rehabilitation volunteer at Wild Wings near Kalispell, talked to Snappy Sport Senter owner BJ Lupton about developing a partnership with the children who fish at Snappy’s pond behind the store in Evergreen.
MacCarter got the idea following an educational presentation he and Wild Wings Director Beth Watne gave at Snappy’s during Father’s Day weekend. One child enthusiastically offered his catch of a half-dozen fish, wanting to help the injured birds.
Lupton embraced the idea, so starting this Saturday during the usual 8 to 10 a.m. session at Snappy’s fishing pond, young anglers will have the opportunity to donate their catch of the day to Wild Wings if they choose to participate in the volunteer effort.
“It’s a nice way to get kids involved in taking care of wildlife,” Lupton said.
The fish donation program falls in line with Snappy’s philosophy of caring for wildlife and the environment.
“We try to teach sportsmanship,” Lupton added.
He said the fishing in Snappy’s popular pond is “very easy” for the young anglers, who pull in rainbow and cutthroat trout ranging from 10 to 24 inches in length.
The program will continue indefinitely, with children able to donate fish for the Wild Wings birds at any of the Saturday sessions or other special events that involve the pond.
MacCarter said the two eagle chicks eat about a pound of fish each per day. He estimated the center will need about 100 pounds of fish over the next four to six weeks just for the two chicks.
The eagle chicks apparently fell out of their nest on the east shore of Whitefish Lake when the rain washed away the branches of the nest. A construction worker found the eaglets and called Montana Wild Wings Recovery Center.
The nonprofit center relies exclusively on donations of food and equipment that allow the rehabilitation of a wide variety of birds. Wild Wings receives more than 100 injured birds annually, including all species of raptors, waterfowl, waxwings, woodpeckers, robins and other small birds, plus small mammals.
Wild Wings also keeps 10 birds that are used in educational programs in the Flathead Valley.
Anyone interested in donating fish of any kind can contact Wild Wings by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Watne at 250-1070.
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at email@example.com.