Sharpshooter frees eagle in predicament

DES MOINES, Iowa — A bald eagle owes its freedom to the
sharpshooting skills of an Iowa conservation officer.

Jason Sandholdt used a single bullet last weekend to free the
bird from a branch that hung over a cliff at Lake Red Rock.

Sandholdt, who works for the Iowa Department of Natural
Resources, was among those who responded Saturday after a kayaker
spotted the eagle hanging about 60 feet above the lake southeast of
Des Moines.

With binoculars, state and county officials saw that the bird
appeared to have caught a single talon in a knothole in the branch
when it landed.

Because the eagle was hanging over a cliff and high in the air,
ropes and ladders seemed unlikely rescue tools, Sandholdt said.

Many in the group thought a mercy killing was the best option.

Sandholdt said he asked for a chance to free the bird with his
rifle, figuring at best the bird would fall into the lake and have
to be rescued for rehabilitation at a clinic.

``It's safe to say no one had any confidence that I could do
that,'' Sandholdt said of his proposed sharpshooting. ``My buddies
were waiting for a poof of feathers.''

The bullet traveled 60 to 70 feet, cleanly through the edge of
the knothole. Sandholdt figures he hit the talon, too.

The eagle flew away and disappeared over the horizon.