Bald Eagles Locked in Death Grip Rescued From Cold Pennsylvania River

Two fighting bald eagles crash-landed into a frigid river and were so cold when they were rescued that they couldn’t unhook from each other, Pennsylvania officials said this week.

After a woman reported finding the two adult eagles floating at the edge of the Susquehanna River, rescuers responded to the scene and used snare poles—the rods with a loop on the end — to bring the birds ashore, according to a report the Pennsylvania Game Commission posted on Facebook. The eagles’ muscles were “locked up” after being in the cold water for what was probably longer than two hours.

“The eagles were likely fighting in the sky over territory and dropped to the ground near the river where they continued their battle,” Columbia County Game Warden Rick Deiterich said in the report. “They seem to have tumbled into the water and would not, or could not, let go of their grip on one another.”

With the help of the Scott Township Police Department, Deiterich dried off the bald eagles and brought them to a firehouse.

“An hour in the warmth of the building enabled the eagles to eventually release their talons,” the report said. “Amazingly, the birds talons were clutching mostly feathers and skin—they had no apparent muscle injuries.”

The birds flew away through an open door of the firehouse.

The incident happened Feb. 25 near Bloomsburg and Espy, in northeastern Pennsylvania. According to the Game Commission, the warmed-up bald eagles flew “in the direction of the Espy bog to the cheers of those who helped them through their ordeal.”

It was not immediately clear exactly how cold the water and air were in that area of the Susquehanna River that day.

The commission is more involved with bald eagles than an occasional rescue—the state agency hosts feeds of bald eagle nests that give views of the birds of prey, which are the national animal of the U.S., guarding their eggs and scanning for enemies.

bald-eagle-cam A live feed of a bald eagle’s nest in Pennsylvania shows the bird of prey in action. Pennsylvania Game Commission/screenshot

bald-eagle-cam3 A live feed of a bald eagle’s nest in Pennsylvania shows the bird of prey in action. Pennsylvania Game Commission/screenshot