SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Could you survive a wildfire for six days? Well, one baby golden eagle in Utah did just that.
"This is a pretty miraculous story," said DaLyn Erickson, a wildlife specialist with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. "His nest was completely engulfed in flames."
This 70-day-old eagle, appropriately named Phoenix, survived a week in the 5,500-acre Dump Fire by Saratoga Springs.
"Phoenix....he went through the fire and literally rose from the ashes and lived," said Erickson when asked about the bird's name.
Kent Keller was the man who found Phoenix. He feared the worst when he returned to the nest site west of Utah Lake to retrieve a leg band he had attached to the male eaglet. But the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources volunteer found the burned bird on June 28 behind a charred tree, about 25 feet below the nest that was cooked to a crisp.
After securing permission from state and federal wildlife agencies, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah in Ogden assumed care of the eaglet.
"When he walked through the door on July 4, we were shocked to see an eaglet that was in pretty good condition, all things considered," said Erickson.
Today, Phoenix received his first check-up with Dr. Scott Echols at Parrish Creek Veterinary Clinic in Centerville and ABC4 cameras were there to capture the moment. Phoenix had suffered burns on his talons, beak, head and wings. His flight feathers were melted down to within an inch or two of his wing and tail.
"Yes, he's got some burnt feathers but what's amazing is all the things he had to get through to get to this point," said Echols.
Phoenix is making significant progress. When he was first rescued, he was very underweight, weighing five pounds. Today, he's over seven pounds. So how can a baby eagle survive such a massive wildfire? First off, birds have an amazing capacity to heal. The insulation offered by the bird's down feathers also played a key role in its survival.
"In a fire situation, if they're not fully engulfed, they can survive," said Echols.
Officials hope the bird can eventually be released back into the wild. Echols and Erickson both expect to see Phoenix take to the sky a year from now.
"That's the goal," said Erickson.
"Once he gets his new feathers, I think he will be able to fly again," said Echols.
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah needs your help. They're asking for donations, including food to help feed Phoenix. To lend a hand please CLICK HERE
For more on Parrish Creek Veterinary Clinic CLICK HERE
Stay tuned to ABC4 and ABC4.com for more on this story.