A Florida Highway Patrolman risked certain biting and scratching last week when he ran to the aid of a bald eagle on the Florida Turnpike.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the eagle collided with a Jeep Cherokee on the Florida Turnpike at around 7:30 am on October 18. When FHP Trooper Julio Velez arrived on the scene in response to an emergency call, he found the Cherokee with a smashed windshield and a stunned but otherwise healthy looking bald eagle sitting quietly on the shoulder.

Trooper Velez cautiously approached the eagle, gently scooped the dazed creature up, and placed it in the back of his patrol car. The eagle didn't go quietly.

"He grabbed me by my his right leg, and he sunk it into my right forearm ..." Velez told Fox 35. 'There's some puncture wounds. He actually squeezed it tight, very, very hard."

Wildlife officials arrived soon after, and whisked the eagle off to the Audobon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland, FL. Dianna Flynt, the rehabilitation supervisor at the Audobon Center, said that the eagle came out of the collision surprisingly unhurt. There were no broken bones or other serious injuries, and the only item of concern found while examining the bird was an elevated lead level.

"It looks very promising that he's releasable, but we do want to treat him for the lead level, internal parasites and any other issues that might arise," Flynt told the Sentinel. Once the eagle makes a full recovery, the Audobon Center plans to tag him and release him near St. Cloud where he was struck.

Florida is home to nearly 15,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Velez told Fox 35 he was happy to help, even if the eagle left talon marks in his arm.

"I was proud to pick him up, because I figured I could do something for him and save his life," he told Fox. "It doesn't matter what life it is, you need to protect it anyway you can."



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