RUSH CITY, Minn. - A army veteran of two tours in Afghanistan has again picked up a weapon on behalf of freedom.
On Thursday Jason Galvin took shots from a .22 caliber rifle to free an eagle that had become tangled in a rope, hanging upside down from a tree 75 feet off the ground.
“It was very windy and I was just waiting for the right shot,” said Galvin who spent 90 minutes firing roughly 150 shots while mowing down three branches, and finally the rope, holding up the eagle.
Other branches on the white pine and the underbrush below helped break the eagle’s fall. The bird is now recovering at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center.
“It was a good weekend for it to happen,” Galvin said. “Fourth of July, you know, that’s our bird. I can’t let it sit there.”
Galvin was on a bait run in his pickup, when he spotted the bird above a gravel road about a mile from his family's cabin, upside down and struggling. By then the eagle had already been hanging more than two days, as neighbors called the Minnesota DNR and the Rush City police and fire departments, only to be told there was nothing the agencies could do.
Galvin's wife Jackie began making calls too, with similar results. "They just couldn’t get up there high enough and they just unfortunately deemed this was going to be a loss."
"Right then I thought, 'Man, that just doesn’t look good.'" Jason Galvin said.
As he assessed the situation Galvin joked that he might have to shoot the eagle down. His wife responded in a more serious tone. "Yup, that's what you're going to do."
Before pulling the trigger, Jason Galvin cleared his idea with Phil Mohs, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
"He told me he was a veteran in the service and he wouldn’t do it if he couldn’t do it safely," said Mohs, who gave Galvin the go-ahead to start shooting, already having concluded the eagle would die in the tree if left alone.
Mohs watched Galvin's progress through a pair of binoculars. "I was like, wow, he’s an excellent shot."
Each time he fired, Galvin said he could see through the rifle scope the eagle staring back at him. "It was slow precise shots. When it was perfect, I’d take the shot and then I’d wait, take the other shot." .
Once the rope was severed and the bird had safely fallen, Mohs placed it in a kennel and started the drive to the Raptor Center. "It rode in the front seat with me and the whole time his head was up and he was alert. It looked good considering it had been hanging there for two days," the conservation officer said.
As of Friday evening, a raptor center veterinarian said the eagle was eating and drinking, while its long-term prognosis was still being assessed.
The Galvins and the their neighbors have started calling the bird "Freedom" and hope it will eventually be released in the area it was rescued.
Jason Galvin said the eagle's rescue was an emotional experience. "There was a lot of tears," he said. "When it finally came down, it was breathtaking. It was a beautiful moment."