WHITEHALL, TX — Along Farm-to-Market Road 2 in Whitehall, three passers-by stopped what they were doing and used their own bodies to shield a bald eagle that had been hit by a passing vehicle.
The bird was in distress Monday morning when Bryan residents Dalton Henley and Jay Henley pulled over to assist. The father and son duo covered the eagle in a jacket they had on hand, which bore an American flag on the left sleeve.
That’s when Mike Montemayor of Whitehall pulled over as well. He helped the two men shield the animal from passing cars as he put in a call to Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell.
“Man, it was just sad to see such a majestic bird laying on the side of the road," Montemayor said. "It was trying to crawl to the side of the road to go die in peace.”
Sheriff Sowell called in Texas Game Warden Forrest Schmidt, who quickly made his way to the scene. Schmidt said the eagle’s wingspan was the size of a truck’s tailgate, and he would have to use a large dog carrier to transport it.
“I actually went and bought one from Tractor Supply in Navasota and put the eagle inside of that," Schmidt said. "I strapped it down and transported it to a lady with Friends of Texas Wildlife in Magnolia. They're a big helper of ours.”
Despite the veterinarian’s efforts, the bird was too badly injured to rehabilitate, and the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize it.
Schmidt said while bald eagles are a protected species, they aren’t too rare to see in the Brazos Valley.
“The sheriff and [Montemayor] said we’ve seen this happen before, and it has happened," Schmidt said. "It happened in the north side of Grimes County - same song and dance. [The eagles] were after something dead on the side of the road, wrong place and wrong time, and they were ultimately hit by a vehicle.”
If someone finds an eagle in distress, Schmidt advised they should not put themselves in harm’s way, but if they can they should contact local law enforcement immediately. Additionally, he said it is illegal and punishable by jail time to harbor any part of a deceased bald eagle's remains unless specially authorized by federal authorities.
For rescuer Montemayor, he does find satisfaction in the fact he was able to assist in easing the animal’s pain, and helping it pass away in peace and safety.
“That bird is a symbol of America," he said. "And you know, if you see a bird like that, it’s your duty to try and help save that bird.”