Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 5th, 2009
The News Herald
Friday, January 30, 2009 2:35 PM EST
By Francesca Chilargi
GIBRALTAR [Michigan] — A black Labrador retriever named Mojo is a fortunate fellow, according to his owner.
Lester Wood, 55, said two large bald eagles were diving for his 65-pound dog on the coldest day last month in his back yard on Horse Island.
Mojo, who is 2 years old, was in the back yard when Wood stepped out and saw the eagles diving toward him.
That’s when he put his hands up. One bird saw him and made a sharp right turn, almost hitting his truck in his yard, he said.
“I know I was interrupting them from getting the dog,” Wood said.
The other eagle followed the first one and they both got tangled in a tree at the end of his driveway before breaking free, flying over Lake Erie and swooping back to Wood’s yard, he said.
Wood is adamant that the eagles, which once were endangered and are federally protected, were plunging for his dog. Aside from the dog, there was only a tree near the deck, he said.
“They were only eight or nine feet off the ground,” he said. “They didn’t come down to the dog, but they were five to six feet away from the dog. They were coming right for him. He’s lucky I came out there.”
John Hartig, Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge manager, said he hasn’t heard of bald eagles harassing dogs and doesn’t know why that would have happened.
The birds usually keep their distance and hunt for fish, Hartig said.
Wood said the eagles were about 4 feet tall and their wingspan was about 5 feet. They were muscular and as big as a trash can, he said.
Adult male eagles generally weigh about 9 pounds and adult females weigh between 12 and 13 pounds. Adult eagles have a wing-span of up to 7 feet, according to experts.
Immature eagles are brown with white heads and tails. The distinct features of the mature bird develop at 5 years old.
In the wild, bald eagles live between 30 and 35 years. In captivity, they have been known to live up to 50 years.
Wood wants to warn other pet owners and parents to be vigilant when their loved ones are outside.
One of his neighbors won’t let her dog go outside without her because she’s afraid of the eagles possibly attacking the dog, he said.
The cold snap has lured hordes of eagles to the island that otherwise would have few, if any at all. Wood’s wife, Cheryl, 52, and their neighbors said they haven’t seen so many eagles before this winter.
Before, Lester Wood said, he would drive to Estral Beach in Berlin Township to see a nest of eagles. Now, he doesn’t have to because he can see the birds from his window.
Wood said he believes the eagles are “a nuisance bird.”
“I know they were almost extinct and wiped out, but they are making a big comeback,” he said.
Residents along the waterfront usually can see several eagles between 8 a.m. and noon. It’s not every day that most people can see an eagle, Wood said.
With the cold temperatures, Wood said he believes the eagles fly to the island, which is bounded by a bay and Lake Erie, searching for food because the bay doesn’t freeze like creeks and rivers.
For instance, the water under the Wayne County-owned bridge between Trenton and Grosse Ile has been freezing, Wood said. But when the water is open, there are not as many eagles flying together over Horse Island.
He said he knows eagles can attack dogs because one killed a golden retriever belonging to a friend from Alaska.
The friend was walking the dog when the eagle swooped in and struck the dog three times on its back, he said.
The woman kicked the bird off the dog, and it hopped behind her as she carried the dog, he said.
“One eagle actually killed the dog,” Wood said. “I know they will attack things that are bigger than them.”
Thanks to RDH!