It took a devoted—and brave—group of rescuers to save an osprey that was tangled in fishing line and dangling from a bridge, some 100 feet over the Susquehanna River.
A hiker first caught the strange sight of a bird hanging from Norman Wood Bridge, which carries traffic across the Susquehanna River between York County and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
It was reported to Raven Ridge Wildlife Center, who called in the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The nearby Rawlinsville Volunteer Fire Company didn’t hesitate to set up for a harrowing high-angle rescue on the bridge, which is estimated to be between180 and 200 feet at its highest point.
Deputy Chief Rich Fuhrman rappelled down from the bridge to reach the osprey, which was struggling to try and free itself, possibly causing further injury. Jordan Newell of ServIntel Aeronautics, a technical rescue expert with Rawlinsville VFC, used his drone camera as an “eye in the sky” to help guide the deputy chief. He shared footage of the dangerous scene with Bay Bulletin. Below, you’ll see the concerning state the bird was in:
Rescuers made the decision to cut the line to prevent further damage to the bird, and when it was cut loose, three firefighters were suited up and waiting in the cold water below. They quickly made a water rescue in the Susquehanna River, with help from Scallywags Animal Rescue on the scene.
The osprey was taken to Raven Ridge for treatment some four hours after it was found entangled. The Pennsylvania Game Commission warden who transported the osprey noticed its mate had been circling during the rescue—and the pair may have had a nest somewhere on the river.
As Raven Ridge rehabilitators explained in a Facebook post, “These birds are extremely high strung and do not do very well in a rehabilitation setting, so we needed to work quickly and efficiently. We were able to exam the bird and remove the very thick fishing line and asses there were no additional injures.”
With fluids, pain medication and rest overnight, they were able to release the osprey back into the wild the next morning, not far from where the rescue took place.
Raven Ridge praised everyone involved in the dangerous rescue that ended in a successful release, saying, “We are so lucky to have a community that will do whatever it takes to get the job done! Without them, this bird would have perished.”
It’s clear to see from the video that cooperation was key in this rescue, with the life of an iconic Chesapeake Bay osprey at stake.
As Newell told Bay Bulletin, “It doesn’t matter to us whether it’s a human or an animal—we’re going to make the rescue.”
-Meg Walburn Viviano