By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An animal known for taking flight ended up on an unexpected ride.

On Jan. 11, a young eagle was on a railroad track when it was hit by a train. It happened in Stockholm, Wisconsin, which is near Lake City, Minnesota. Normally, those accidents end tragically for eagles, but that wasn’t this case this time.

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“To be able to see some of these animals up close is absolutely amazing and I’m grateful every day of what I do,” said Kathy Kasakaitas.

As a wildlife rehabilitator for Coulee Region Wildlife Center, Kasakaitas has seen enough injured animals over the years to know which ones will likely make it, and which ones won’t.

So, when Kasakaitas heard that a young, female eagle was hit by a train near Stockholm, she feared the worst. It was hit with enough force that it got stuck on the front of the train, and because they couldn’t stop, the bird stayed like that for 82 miles while the train went about 80 miles an hour. The conductor thought it was doomed. So, did Kasakaitas and her crew.

“We’ve gotten several calls over the years, I’ve been here 12 years, to pick up deceased eagles hit by trains,” said Kasakaitas.

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But when they went to pick up this eagle near La Crosse, they were surprised. Not only was it still alive, it was in pretty good shape. Its wings were stuck, but once freed, X-rays didn’t detect any broken bones or serious injuries. Soon enough, it was flying again.

“With no fractures at all is what’s amazing in this whole situation, actually,” said Kasakaitas.

Kasakaitas thinks the eagle was trying to fly away in the same direction the train was going, which may have lessened the impact – just enough. Still, if eagles stand for freedom then this one also stands for survival.

“We’ve had eagles hit by pick-up trucks or semis that have fared far worse than this one getting hit by a train,” said Kasakaitas. “Very unique. Very unexpected outcome so far for this.”

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The eagle was taken to a raptor education group in Antigo, Wisconsin where it’s being evaluated for frostbite and possibly a ruptured air sac. But Kasakaitas is confident it will make a full recovery.

John Lauritsen