A Veteran Once Rescued a Bald Eagle With a Rifle in Time for the July 4 Weekend

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Jason Galvin in Afghanistan. (Jackie Gervais Galvin via Facebook)

It started out as a joke: Army veteran Jason Galvin told his wife that he could probably rescue a bald eagle trapped in a tree with a couple of shots from his .22-caliber rifle.

The young bird had already been up there for two days, so what did he have to lose?

His wife didn't laugh; she thought he should give it a try.

Galvin first noticed the eaglet caught in twine hanging from a pine tree branch while on his way to get bait for a fishing trip on East Rush Lake, Minnesota, just days before July 4, 2016.

"Right then, I thought, 'Man, that just doesn't look good,'" he told KARE 11, the local NBC affiliate. "We really need to make some calls."

The Eaglet was stuck by a piece of twine for two days, too high to reach. (Jackie Gervais Galvin)

Since it was stuck 75 feet above the ground, no one in the area had the means to help the bird. The local police and fire departments couldn't do it. Even the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) came up short.

Galvin didn't just start shooting at the bald eagle, however. Killing or wounding the national bird -- even one that might be left for dead -- is against federal law. The father of four and eight-year Army veteran didn't want to get in trouble.

So when Galvin's wife suggested he really give it a shot, so to speak, he called up the MDNR. He told conservation officers he could free the bird by shooting off the branch it was stuck on -- and he could do it without hitting the eagle.

"He told me he was a veteran in the service and he wouldn't do it if he couldn't do it safely," conservation officer Phil Mohs told KARE 11. "I sat there with the binos and was like, 'Wow, he's an excellent shot.' Every single one of his shots hit the branch until it broke."

Each gray streak is where one of Galvin's bullets passed through the branch (KARE11 TV)

The two-time Afghanistan veteran used his Ruger 10/22 autoloading rifle with an advanced scope to take out the twine and branch that had held the bird hostage for so long. But it didn't happen right away. Galvin fired 150 shots to cut through the thick branch. The whole effort took 90 minutes.

When the eagle was finally freed, it fell 75 feet down into the soft underbrush around the tree, where Mohs recovered it to take to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center.

"There were a lot of tears," Galvin told KARE 11. "It was a breathtaking, beautiful moment."

Locals named the eagle "Freedom" and had hoped it would be released into the wild after its recovery at the raptor center in St. Paul, Minnesota, where it was treated for depression and dehydration, as well as a swollen foot and injured hip.

But after two days of dangling from the tree, the eagle would not have been able to hunt effectively in the wild. The raptor center instead adopted Freedom as an educational ambassador.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com.

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