Kayaker Rescues Eagle Stranded On Ice

Slalom kayaker Jim Tibensky put his decades of paddling skills toward the effort of saving this bird

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One of the greatest rewards of spending time on the water is the chance to watch bald eagles and other birds of prey. When one of these impressive birds finds itself in distress, often due to human-created circumstances, it’s time to return the favor and jump to action. A decorated kayaker in Chicago did exactly this when he recently rescued an eagle stranded on the ice as reported here by ABC 7 Chicago.

Kayaker Rescues Eagle In Distress

Jim Tibensky is a veteran volunteer bird rescuer, not to mention a decades-long competitive kayaker. Tibensky has won age group national championships in sprint and slalom kayaking. He has also served as a course designer for slalom world cup races, and scribed at the 1996 Atlanta Games, according to the Illinois Paddling Council. Today, Tibensky is an ACA level 5 coastal kayak instructor, and also makes water rescues for the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors.

When Tibensky got the call to rescue the bald eagle in distress on a chunk of ice in Waukegan Harbor on Lake Michigan, he hopped in his slalom kayak and performed what we recognize as a beautifully executed paddler assisted rescue. the kayak instructor used his bow to plow the ice toward fellow rescuers with net in hand.

“I got my bow up on the ice a little bit and then just very slowly, hoping not to dislodge the bird, paddled,” Tibensky told ABC 7. “It was on the opposite side of the harbor from where the people were, so I had to paddle it all the way across.”

A Tragic Ending To This Rescue

Thanks to Tibensky’s efforts with his kayak the rescued eagle was taken to nearby Willowbrook Wildlife Center. Unfortunately the bird did not recover and passed away days later. There is not currently a definitive answer as to what caused the bird’s death, but it is suspected the bird was poisoned by a rodenticide. This can occur by eating prey that has ingested rodent bait.

The ending to Tibensky’s rescue is not the one anyone would have hoped for, but the Willowbrook Wildlife Center had this to say on their Facebook page. “We want people to remember that this outcome does not take away from the amazing efforts of the public and [Chicago Bird Collision Monitors] in their rescue.”

The eagle wouldn’t have stood a chance if not for the work of volunteers such as Tibensky, who employed his decades of paddling skills to help the birds we share a tie to the water with.


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