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Careful, Minnesota: It's eagle-in-the-road season

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Bald Eagle
A female bald eagle is released after rehabilitation.
Anthony Kwan | MPR News 2012 file

Minnesotans know that deer-vehicle crashes peak in the fall. But state conservation officials are also reminding drivers that roadkill draws eagles down to the roads seeking a free meal — and the creatures are not good at flying off when a car approaches.

While crows can get up and out quickly, eagles can become too heavy to fly until they digest their meal. They can also suffer from "neurological issues if they are exposed to lead in the carcass of the animal they are eating. When this happens, eagles become disoriented and do not know to fly off when a car is approaching," the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Monday.

"When deer are particularly active, we tend to get calls about eagles that are injured or killed by vehicles or sick and dying from lead poisoning," Christine Herwig, DNR northwest region nongame specialist said in a statement. "If you see a dead deer on the road and can safely move the deer off the roadway, this improves the safety of other motorists and wildlife."

If you come across a dead eagle, the DNR advises to leave it alone or bring it to the nearest DNR office. Eagles are sent to a national feather repository where the feathers and other eagle parts are cleaned and distributed to Native American reservations for use in ceremonies. 

"You may not keep a dead eagle, but by law you are allowed to transport a dead eagle to a state or federal wildlife agency office." Herwig said. 

If you find an injured eagle, the DNR recommends contacting an official wildlife rehabilitation center or "letting nature take its course." Don't try to feed it or give it water.

Some eagles can survive their injuries and be transported to a rehabilitator like the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center, which rehabilitates more than 800 sick and injured hawks, eagles, falcons and owls a year, the DNR said.

One other thing to note well if you're trying to get an eagle to authorities for help: Be quiet, the agency says. Don't play the car radio. Loud noise is stressful, especially when the eagle is injured.