MAITLAND, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Meet the hero who saved a bald eagle on the side of Florida's Turnpike. The raptor is recovering, and the man who rescued him is now talking.
Trooper Julio Velez, with the Florida Highway Patrol, says he was just doing what anyone else would do if they saw an eagle in distress on the side of the highway. The eagle was struck by a vehicle on Tuesday morning, and his kind actions made headlines this week.
"It's very possible, there was something very tasty on the side of the road, and that eagle swooped down and said, 'I want a piece of that,'" said Michael Goldman, education manager at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland. "It seems it was hit by a Jeep, and right now, what we can see it has a lot of muscle soreness; no broken bones."
It has now been three days since the incident, one that Trooper Velez will never forget in his over 25 years in law enforcement. He noticed the bird looked stunned, so he got in front of it, to keep him from going into the road.
"What I did was approach him nice and slow, make sure he didn't get agitated or something and go back on the road," he explained. "I started talking to him, I don't know, try to seem if I could calm him down or something like that, so he wouldn't fly away."
He then decided to pick up the eagle, to get the bird safely in his vehicle, but this wild animal, which has talons made for grabbing tightly, didn't cooperate.
"He grabbed me by my his right leg, and he sunk it into my right forearm ... there's some puncture wounds. He actually squeezed it tight, very, very hard."
"We're really glad that trooper had courage bravery to go out and pick up a bald eagle. That thing is about eight pounds and has two to three-inch razor sharp talons on it," Goldman said.
Still, even with his scratches healing, Trooper Velez doesn't regret his actions to save this national symbol.
"I was proud to pick him up, because I figured I could do something for him and save his life," he said. "It doesn't matter what life it is, you need to protect it anyway you can."
The eagle is now recovering nicely at the Audubon Center.