A bald eagle tussling in flight with another eagle — likely in a springtime courtship ritual — had to be rescued when it got wedged in the crotch of a maple tree.
Ryan Ellifson, a warden with the state Department of Natural Resources, said the birds may have flown too low during courting maneuvers when the accident happened Sunday afternoon. He noted that the other eagle kept circling overhead after the male got stuck.
Local residents called police after seeing the eagle pinned in the tree.
"A resident saw them and they appeared to be fighting in the sky when one knocked the other one down and he got wedged in the tree and couldn't get out," Police Chief Gary Bleeker said.
A utility truck with a hoist was called in, and Ellifson went up to free the bird, an adult male with the characteristic white head. He said the eagle had one wing stuck in one set of branches and another wing in other branches.
Ellifson held the eagle's talons and feet while freeing the wings.
"I used a towel to put over his head to calm him down and he came out of there pretty easily," he said. "He was agitated, and rightfully so."
The eagle was taken to Wildlife in Need, an animal rehabilitation center in nearby Oconomowoc.
Lisa Beck of Wildlife in Need said the eagle was examined Monday and found to have no broken bones, although it didn't immediately try to fly when placed in the center's flight barn. She said that could be due to muscle strain from struggling to free itself.
Plans called for releasing the eagle in the same area where he was found.
If the other bird was its mate, the two should be able to join up again and move on together, Ellifson said.