Of raptors and rifles

  Rancher Jim Maitland waded through chest-high waters in mid-November on a rescue mission, but not to save a calf. The creature struggling in a southwestern Oregon river was a young golden eagle that had been shot. After Maitland used a potato sack to rescue the raptor from a riverbank, it thanked him by gouging his hand with a talon. "It was worth it," Maitland said afterward. "It's a beautiful bird."

While Maitland said he never considered the possibility that a fellow rancher shot the bird, Dan Deuel of Free Flight Rehabilitation Center in Bandon, Ore., which now houses the disabled eagle, thinks a rancher is guilty. Sheep ranchers especially, he says, blame eagles for preying on their livestock. Deuel says many people in the area oppose Free Flight's efforts to return birds of prey to the sky; some have even sent death threats to the center.

"There's a lot of manhood being carried around on gunracks around here," said Deuel.

Meanwhile, Maitland, who collects guns and promotes gun shows, says he's glad he helped the injured eaglet, although he hopes he doesn't have to rescue many more. "I don't want to make a habit of it," he said. "Those birds are big."

*Jenny Emery

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