“Wolf!, ” howled Marvin. He said at the moment he couldn’t think of the word “Eagle” but he wanted to say something that would get my attention. “Wolf!” worked for me. A wolf sighting would be very unusual indeed and a good photograph could be a grand prize winner. Formerly common in Oregon the wolf was considered extirpated with the last one turned in to collect a state bounty prior to 1950. The gray wolf was given federal protection in Oregon under the Endangered Species Act when they began making a comeback in northeastern Oregon having dispersed from Idaho.
Marvin and I had been exploring the lower Deschutes River from the central Oregon town of Maupin downstream to the boat launch and campground at Mack’s Landing. We had returned to State Highway 216 near Sherar’s Bridge intending to continue west to US highway 197 near the town of Tygh Valley. We had just passed the entrance to White River Falls State Park when Marvin spotted the Bald Eagle feeding on a deer carcass and howled “Wolf!”. Marvin was excitedly pointing off highway to my left where an adult Bald Eagle was shredding strips of flesh from a deer carcass, probably a road kill. A sudden stop would likely have flushed the eagle so we continued westbound on State Highway 216 a reasonable distance before turning our vehicle around for another look at the bird that is found on the federal Great Seal, the coat of arms, for the United States. Not wanting to disturb the bird and hoping the eagle would stay at the carcass long enough for us to take a few photographs we returned slowly and stopped roadside about 150 feet away from the deer carcass. Despite our careful approach the majestic white-headed eagle flew a short distance farther away, out of camera range, where it landed and watched us carefully. Finally it flew toward some distant trees and disappeared from our view.
We sat roadside for awhile, thinking the eagle might give in to hunger, abandon caution, and return to the carcass. Our car acted as a blind where our movements would be hidden, perhaps giving the eagle a sense of security. The adult bird did not return, however, but another eagle approached, this one a juvenile, and landed to feed on the deer carcass, providing us with ample opportunity for photographs. We stayed until the youngster ate its fill and departed. It was an awesome experience.