Bird will be delivered to California for use in Native American ceremonies
Brandt Barton was traveling on Highway 34 heading into Joyce early Friday morning when something laying on the opposite side of the road caught his eye.
What the 18-year-old discovered about two miles east of Winnfield turned out to be a sad ending for a very majestic bird.
“It was on the left-hand side of the road,” said Barton, a student at Northwest Louisiana Technical College in Natchitoches. “I assumed it was a bird you’d normally see dead on the side of the road, like a buzzard. But as I got closer, I saw that it had a white fantail and that really got my attention so I slowed down, turned around and went back.
“When I got out of my pickup truck, I had already kind of figured it was a bald eagle, and sure enough, it was. The bird was still warm — it had just been hit.”
Not knowing what to do with the eagle, he ultimately decided to put it in the bed of his truck and bring it to his grandfather, who works at West Fraser, Inc., a lumber manufacturing facility only about a mile away.
“I was actually kind of nervous to even mess with the bird because I don’t know the laws on picking them up and moving them and stuff,” Barton said. “But I knew I needed to get it out of the road because I didn’t want it to get run over and all mangled up.”
His grandfather, Troy Hatten, had no clue what his grandson wanted to show him when he got a call around 8:30 asking him to meet outside in the parking lot.
“He wouldn’t tell me what it was. I could tell he was really excited. He said, ‘Can you meet me in the parking lot?’ I said, ‘What is it?’ And he said, ‘I got something in the back of the truck I want to show you. It’ll just be a surprise,’” Hatten said. “So we went out and looked over in there, and there was a big old bald eagle.
“That’s the most beautiful thing I ever seen.”
Scott Jordan, who works with Hatten at the mill, contacted the Winn Parish Sheriff’s Office, who connected him to the Louisiana Department of WIldlife and Fisheries field office in Pineville. (As it turns out, another motorist had already contacted the sheriff’s office about the eagle before Barton had picked it up.)
“They sent a wildlife biologist up and he was here in very short order,” Jordan said. “He explained that the animal would not be destroyed, but would go to an eagle repository in California to be turned over to the Native Americans. They will use the feathers, the beak and the talons in religious ceremonies.”
Barton had hoped to get a feather from the bird as a souvenir, but the biologist said that wouldn’t be possible.
“If you are a non-Native American, it is strictly prohibited to possess even a single piece of a bald eagle,” Jordan said, relaying the biologist’s message. “He said Wildlife and Fisheries cannot dissect those birds, or if one needs to be euthanized because of an injury, they cannot do it.
“It has to be Native Americans that get involved with it at that point.”
Jordan estimated the bird stood at least 2 feet tall, with a wingspan of about 6 1/2 feet.
“This was a full-grown bald eagle,” Jordan said. “It was pretty substantial.”
Barton said bald eagles are more commonly seen around Caney Lake, which is only about 10 miles away. The week before he found the dead bird, he saw another one flying alongside a road near Atlanta, La. with his girlfriend.
“We saw a bald eagle that had just caught something on the side of the road and was flying up out of the ditch,” Barton said. “I’d be willing to bet it was the same bird because that’s just a few miles down the road from there.”
Bo Boehringer, public information director with LDWF, said if you find a dead or injured eagle, contact the nearest LDWF field office and ask for a biologist. The agency recommends that a dead bird not be picked up, confirming a bald eagle carcass must remain fully intact per federal and state law.
For a list of LDWF field offices and phone numbers, click here.