Fisherman saves drowning osprey
Talk about a fish story! When Chuck Needham waded into Lacamas Lake and saved an osprey that was tangled in another fisherman's line and...
VANCOUVER. Wash. — Talk about a fish story!
When Chuck Needham waded into Lacamas Lake and saved an osprey that was tangled in another fisherman's line and drowning, it felt like a mystical connection with animal spirits and his ancestors.
"Being an Indian, it's kind of a spiritual thing," said Needham, 53, who is three-quarters Cherokee. "Being able to revive it and bring it back to life and save it, it gave me a warm feeling."
Needham's tale would be in the "yeah, right" category if another fisherman hadn't captured it with his camera.
"To me, it was a little miracle," said Sue Cappoen, Needham's girlfriend.
It happened about 5:30 p.m. on July 6, a Monday, as the two were fishing for trout on the north side of the lake. Using worms and marshmallows flavored with anise, they were at a spot called "the rail."
Looking to their left, Needham suddenly told Cappoen, "Look at that bird!"
The osprey, with striking golden eyes and a wingspan estimated at 5 feet, had dived into the murky lake, possibly for a perch. But the raptor was trapped in the water, tangled with another fisherman's line. The line was wrapped around its neck, the hook embedded in its wing, and some discarded fishing line was tangled around its legs.
"I saw it flapping," Cappoen said. "It was trying to keep above water with its wings. It couldn't go forward and it couldn't go back. We said, 'Oh, God!' We couldn't let it die."
They ran toward the scene.
"I just jumped into the water in my cowboy boots," Needham said. "It was up to my knees."
Seizing the large bird, Needham used nail clippers to cut the line away from the osprey.
"It was dead by that time," Needham said. "It was gone. It just had no life to it."
So he decided to try some mouth-to-beak respiration while massaging the bird's throat and chest.
"I cupped its head in my left hand and turned its beak toward me and breathed into its beak. I gave it about five or six deep breaths and, all of a sudden, it started coughing up water and foam and perked up a little bit.
"That was a special moment. It was like, 'It's all right! It's going to make it!' "
Carrying the bird closer to shore, Needham said, he put it on a rock. Wary of the dazed bird's powerful talons and razor-sharp beak, he gently poked it with a stick to see if it would move.
"It just pecked at the stick, and it just turned around on the rock and took off."
That was the last they saw of it, so its fate is unknown.
Needham, who is retired and lives near Fisher's Landing, said he fishes at the lake every day. Shortly after the experience, the fisherman who accidentally hooked the bird gave Needham copies of his photos.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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