DULUTH — A juvenile bald eagle attacked a woman near the north shore of Lake Superior Thursday, Aug. 13, until an onlooker used his chef's jacket to rescue the woman.
The bird was first noticed sitting on the shoreline Wednesday evening, said Thom McAleer, owner of the nearby Cascade Lodge and Restaurant in Lutsen, Minn. As early as 6 a.m. Thursday, the bird was still drawing a lot of attention from people driving by as it was sitting on top of a chiminea-type structure, he said.
“People were stopping their cars and walking up to it and getting within maybe 50-100 feet of the bird and it was just sitting there,” McAleer said. “It wasn’t moving at all really. It was turning its head but it wasn’t trying to fly away or acting scared so we knew that something was not right with the bird.”
As McAleer was waiting for a volunteer from the Raptor Center in St. Paul, the eagle attacked an unsuspecting woman.
“I don't think she even saw the bird,” McAleer said. “It had kind of moved about 100 feet further down the property and somehow it just latched onto her. It just jumped and grabbed her leg with its talons, and was flapping and flapping.”
Cascade Lodge and Restaurant head kitchen manager Bernie Banks was outside double-checking that everything was ready for the restaurant to open.
“I just happened to look down the street and I saw a lady being attacked by an eagle and I just ran down there and tried to help out as best I could,” Banks said.
Banks said he took his chef jacket off and threw it over the bird.
“I had to kind of pry it off of her,” Banks said of the encounter. “It was a struggle. I had no idea how strong they were. So it took a few minutes.”
After about two or three minutes he was able to get the eagle off the woman, who ran back to the lodge. At that point Banks let go of the bird and it hopped into the woods and tore his chef coat to pieces. That’s when they called 911, McAleer said.
Cook County sheriff’s deputies along with the Minnesota State Patrol arrived on the scene to assist. Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen said his deputies worked to keep the eagle out of the road to make sure traffic could flow safely. The eagle kept on sitting in the road, causing vehicles to stop on Minnesota Highway 61.
While the state troopers and sheriff’s deputies were trying to keep the eagle out of the road, it kept jumping on their vehicles. At one point the eagle hopped onto the roof of a Sheriff’s Office truck and went for a ride as the deputy drove the bird away from that area of Highway 61, which is fairly narrow, to an area with more space for vehicles to get around safely.
McAleer said the whole event lasted about four or five hours Thursday morning until the eagle flew away on its own before the Raptor Center volunteer could get there.
Eliasen said an ambulance was called for the woman but was canceled en route. Banks said he saw the woman about a half-hour later.
“She came down and thanked me and said she just had a couple of scratches and would be OK,” he said. “She was a little shook up.”
Banks said he wouldn’t call what he did an instinct. He said he heard putting something over a bird's head would calm it down, so that’s what he did.
“(The woman) was really screaming in pain and I just had to help her out,” Banks said. “I just hope I don’t have to go through anything like that again. It was just surreal but I was glad I was there to help.”