The call came in about 7:15pm, Monday, March 29, 2011 that an Osprey was hanging from a cell tower near US 19 and Alderman Road. The cell tower was in a locked compound owned by Brighthouse Networks. We headed to the location but it was after hours and no one was around.
As you looked up at the tower it seemed to go on for ever and then, some 90-100 feet up and barely visible, was an Osprey hanging by it’s left wing. The Osprey’s mate circled just above her, doing his best to keep her company and he didn’t understand why he couldn’t coax her to follow him.
After a few phone calls, Brighthouse employees, Dan Tatem and Glen Fasting arrived and then a ladder truck from the Palm Harbor Fire Department. Next, Captain Tim Pilsner, who was off duty and his wife, veterinarian Gayle Burrell showed up on scene to assist.
Before long, I was fitted for a harnessed and started the daunting ascend to the stranded Osprey. Right behind me was Captain Pilsner. It was a slow, step by step process, and on three occasions it was necessary to climb to the back of the ladder to avoid metal bars that were placed along the ladder and then crawl back to the front to continue on.
As we climbed higher the winds became much stronger making the process even slower and more difficult. Finally, I reached the struggling bird. To my surprise, she wasn’t caught by fishing line or other debris but her wing had become caught in a slot in a piece of the angle iron. I knew immediately that this was a very bad scenario.
It took both hands to free her, one to hold her and the other to slide the wing out of the crevice. Soon, she was free of the tower. I handed her to Captain Pilsner and we began the long downward descend. All along, her mate watched from above.
Captain Pilsner made it to the ground long before I did and Dr Burrell’s immediate assessment of the Osprey was not encouraging. After a while, I finally made it back to earth and we took the injured bird to AA Animal Emergency Clinic. Dr. Stanton’s assessment was the same, the best thing for the Osprey was euthanasia. We said our goodbyes.
Although the ending wasn’t what we hoped, at least she is didn’t hang there and suffer. And her mate didn’t have to stand by helplessly and witness her struggle. On the bright side, look how many people rushed to her aid. Suncoast had four people there, Brighthouse had two, there were three firefighters, a paramedic and a veterinarian. And then, there was AA Animal Emergency Clinic. Thanks to all who helped.
This kind of work sure has its ups and downs.