A Nova Scotia tidal borer that has long admired bald eagles from afar came up close and personal after rescuing him from the Shubenacadie River over the weekend.
As the owner and tour guide of the Shubie River Wranglers, Emmett Blois is no stranger to spotting eagles, many of which live and hunt near the fish-rich river. But he never thought that one day he would have one of them on his lap.
“I’m still amazed,” said Blois, who also participated in the first season of Big Brother Canada, as well as the fourth season of The amazing race Canada.
Neither these competitions nor his years of experience on the tides of the Shubenacadie River could prepare him for what he experienced on Sunday.
On that day, Blois went out on the river with some guides and trainees for the first time of the season. They were at the mouth of the river, about nine kilometers from the River Wranglers Lodge, when they spotted six eagles on a nearby sandbar.
The eagles weren’t an uncommon sight – “we see them out there every day,” said Blois – but when a tidal wave set in, five of them took off while one stayed.
At first Blois thought that the bird might have stayed around to catch a fish from one of the waves.
“And then the tidal wave came over and hit him and he started flapping around and swimming in the water,” said Blois, noting that the bird “was definitely not a great swimmer.”
The crew jumped into action and brought the boat close to the eagle. Blois and one of the trainees were able to carefully get it out of the water and into the boat.
“Usually saving eagles isn’t part of training, but they definitely have a special first day, that’s for sure,” he said.
Although he doesn’t know how the eagle was injured, Blois said that one of its legs appeared to be swollen. He also suspected that something was wrong with one of its wings as it was not taking off with the other birds.
The drive back to the lodge took about an hour, but the eagle was good on the drive.
“My hand was kind of on his chest, and when we got him on the boat for the first time, his heart was beating,” said Blois. “And then, towards the end of the trip, his heart rate had slowed.”
Still, he didn’t take any chances.
“Of course I tried to keep my face away from him just in case,” he said, noting his sharp beak and large claws.
When they brought the eagle back ashore, they called the animal rehabilitation group Hope for Wildlife, which picked it up that day.
Blois said the organization will X-ray the bird to see the extent of its injuries and then treat it internally. Then it is released back into the wild on the Shubenacadie River.
Blois hopes the animal is coming home soon and even urges his Instagram followers to look for possible eagle names.
“‘Wrangler’ is a front runner, a lot of people strive for it, but we’ll see,” he said, adding that they want to be sure of the bird’s sex before committing to a name.
Blois said he was grateful for the opportunity to help an animal that has long been a “huge, big” part of its river tours.
“We’re still in awe,” he said.
“It was an amazing experience to be able to experience it first hand and to be able to help in some way. Amazing.”