WEST OCEAN CITY – “There is something truly majestic when you get to see a bald eagle.”
That’s what area resident Kristi Clarke was thinking when she turned around to get a better look at the eagle she saw standing in the median of Route 50 in West Ocean City. That’s when she saw it fly into an oncoming vehicle.
“It actually hit the side of the car,” she said, “knocking itself to the ground.”
Although it landed in the left lane of eastbound Route 50, vigilant motorists were quick to stop and block the bird that lay prone on the asphalt. Clarke, who called 911 as soon as she saw what happened, says she watched as the bird tightened its wings, trying to lift its body off the ground. With the help of an onlooker, the eagle was eventually able to stand.
“Although blood ran down its body from what was its right eye, he stood with such strength and fortitude,” Clarke said.
An officer from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources reached the scene — near the intersection of Route 50 and Jerry Mack Road — shortly after and moved the eagle from the roadway.
“It was stunned and appeared to have a leg injury,” said Candy Thomson, public information officer for Maryland Natural Resources Police. “But the officer said the bird was active and mobile.”
The officer consulted with one of the wildlife rehabilitators Natural Resources Police typically works with and was instructed to take the eagle into the woods nearby and to watch it to see if it recovered on its own. Thomson said it did and was left to return to its natural environment. She said incidents like Sunday’s were not unusual.
“It happens often enough that NRP has a list of wildlife rehabilitators across the state with whom we work to ensure that injured wildlife receives appropriate attention,” she said.
Thomson said if needed those rehabilitators would take over the care and treatment of the injured animal.
Local resident Heather Vest was among the crowd of onlookers who watched as the NRP officer covered the bird in a towel and carried it off in a large plastic tub. She said there was an animal carcass in the median that the animal may have been scavenging before the incident.
“It appeared unconscious when we first arrived. My husband approached with a couple other drivers. At that point, the eagle regained consciousness and raised its head. Neither driver knew who may have hit it,” Vest said in an email to The Dispatch.
Clarke said seeing the eagle up close and watching it recover from what appeared to be a near-death experience was incredible.
“What a true life synonym of America,” she said.