He drove past traffic and pulled in at the center of the scene. He was majestic with brilliant yellow eyes and big, sharp claws that made you want to run far from their threatening grip.
But Whalen had no time to think. The cars were coming to a standstill and it was a recipe for disaster. He had to act fast but not before the bald eagle gave him the fright of a lifetime.
Trooper Bryan Whalen was driving back to the office after a long day of responding to calls and patrolling the streets of New York.
He was tired after being on his feet all day and looked forward to clocking out. He wanted to spend a much-needed relaxing evening at home. But that wasn’t how things would play out.
Whalen had seen many things working as a New York state trooper. From high-profile criminal investigations to hilarious false alarms, Whalen thought he’d seen it all. He was wrong.
He was driving down route 17 in Orange County. It was rush hour and the highway was as busy as usual, cars whizzed past one after the other in what seemed like a relentless race against time.
He reached his hand out, only to jerk it towards him again. His heart raced. He had no idea what he was doing. He had never seen one of these creatures up close before. What happened?
Whalen was around 20 minutes from his office when he heard his stomach rumble. Now hungry, he was desperate to get home.
Just then, Whalen noticed all the cars seemed to slow down and veer onto the right up ahead. Then a small figure came into view. It was the reason for the slight traffic.
Whalen couldn’t make it out at first but as he got closer his eyes popped at realizing what all the fuss was about. It was a bald eagle. As rare a sight to see as a meteor shower.
As a state trooper, he simply couldn’t ignore this, no matter how much he wanted to finish work. He put on his lights and drove up the side of the traffic to the center of the scene.
People took pictures of the bird as they passed by. Whalen rolled his eyes at the driving offense but couldn’t deter from the task at hand. He pulled up and got out to see why the eagle had caused so much commotion.
Whalen’s breath caught as he took in the magnificent sight of the animal. He was big, with a vibrant yellow beak and striking eyes. Whalen had never seen one of these in real life before, let alone, seeing one this close.
But as Whalen approached the majestic bird, he realized something was very wrong.
The eagle didn’t seem like it wanted to move. It stood there on the road like it had claimed its territory, yet Whalen could see the look of fear in its eyes.
Whalen wondered what was wrong with it. Was it not flying on purpose? Was it hurt? Was it too young to fly? Whalen had no idea what he was about to walk into.
Whalen thought about calling backup from the Department of Environmental Conservation. They’d be more qualified to deal with this situation rather than him.
But traffic was building and he worried if more time passed, the animal might get a fright and jump into oncoming traffic. He had to act fast. He ran back into his car and grabbed anything that would help.
Luckily, he had a small cage with him already as he would often respond to aggressive dog encounters. He took out the cage and grabbed a blanket.
He knew bald eagles could give a nasty bite and scratch if provoked. As cars passed by and people stalled to watch the throwdown, he braced himself for what was to come.
The eagle looked at Whalen with threatening eyes that warned him to stay away. But he persisted. The eagle struggled to flap its wings, side-stepping back from Whalen’s advances until it had enough.
It began to deliver a series of high-pitched whistling, buffed up its feathers, and charged. But Whalen was one step ahead.
Quickly, he opened the blanket and engulfed the eagle carefully in the fabric before it could do any harm. He waited a moment for it to calm down and then picked it up.
The eagle must have known Whalen meant no harm as he was no longer struggling or aggressive. He simply let Whalen carry him. Whalen couldn’t believe what was happening right now.
He managed to get it safely into the cage and snapped a photo of this incredible moment when he came to the rescue of a wild bald eagle on the highway.
Once he got him loaded in, he called the Department of Environmental Conservation to let them know he was on his way. He told them how he found the eagle and asked if they knew what was wrong.
When Whalen handed the eagle over to officer Nicole Duchene of the Department of Environmental Conservation, she speculated that it had sprained its wing.
She transported the eagle to a rehab facility in New Paltz for further care and thanked Whalen for his vigilance and care. Bald eagles are listed as a threatened species so his effort was greatly appreciated.
When Whalen finally got to go home and relax, it was already bedtime, but he consoled himself with the feeling of fulfillment the evening brought to him.
His office posted the picture of Whalen’s incredible rescue on their Facebook page and support for his kind and brave action came pouring in. It’s not every day a state trooper gets the chance to save the emblem of the nation!