Eagle 1 to the Rescue: Helicopter Lives Up to its Name

Earth Day was created in 1970 to bring public awareness—and activism—to environmental causes. The idea, first proposed by then-U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, has swelled to the worldwide movement it is today. So as we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, check out these amazing wildlife rescue photographs from our collection. 

Photograph: Eagle 1 Rescue, May 7, 2002. 2012.9.1 & 2.
Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum, Washington, DC.
Image Courtesy of Maryland Department of Natural Resources & Tom Darden.

Like most stunning photographs, these have an equally compelling story. On May 7, 2002, a mining company called Maryland Rock Industries (MRI) alerted Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that seven bald eagles were stuck in a 10-acre silt pond at Goose Bay, Maryland.  This pond was part of a recirculating system required for processing mined rock and sand, used to settle unwanted byproducts. Perhaps beneficial for the mining process, the pond’s sticky makeup proved to be a dangerous trap for animals—especially birds, who can get stuck in the sludge, rendering them unable to fly.

The size of this pond made rescue by foot or boat impossible. Maryland Wildlife officials called on the National Park Service Park Police helicopter, aptly named Eagle 1, to help. In the daring rescue, pilot Sgt. Ron Galey flew the helicopter just over the wet silt pit, narrowly avoiding getting stuck in the mud, while paramedic Sgt. John Marsh and Maryland DNR Wildlife Biologist Bryan King plucked the eagles from the surface.

Four of the seven bald eagles were treated and later released. Maryland Governor Glendening honored the rescuers, saying, “The rescue effort demonstrated the resourcefulness of our State and federal workers, but more importantly it revealed their strong commitment to working together to achieve a common goal.”

Between 2000 and 2004, Maryland Rock Industries reported 20 endangered bald eagles had become stuck in the silt ponds at Goose Bay. Following the rescue and investigation by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Maryland DNR, the company altered its mining practices, waiting until the bald eagles had migrated out of the area to drain water from the ponds. This effectively stopped the eagle entrapments at Goose Bay.

On Earth Day, as we celebrate and learn about conserving our planet, we should remember some 15,000 law enforcement officers who work every day to protect our natural resources around the country. When it opens, the National Law Enforcement Museum plans to proudly display a National Park Service helicopter, also named Eagle 1, as a symbol of the courageous actions of individuals—like those involved in this story—who do their part to protect all living things.