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The eagle has landed--on an Amtrak train
Fredericksburg police come to the aid of a bald eagle that had a run-in with an Amtrak train

Date published: 11/25/2005

By GEORGE WHITEHURST

It started out as a standard day at the Fredericksburg Police Department, with reports of various criminal activity, both large and small.

But about 4:30 p.m., the department received a call about a fowl incident.

A northbound Amtrak train had struck a bald eagle, and though the bird apparently had survived, it remained pinned to the front of the locomotive.

And so a group of officers headed down to the depot to meet the train and try to figure out if they could save the eagle, according to Fredericksburg police spokesman Jim Shelhorse.

"They actually were able to take the eagle off the train and transport it to headquarters," he said yesterday.

Officers then contacted the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to figure out what to do with this new charge.

Although bald eagles no longer are on the Endangered Species List, they remain under federal protection.

Game and Inland Fisheries officials told Fredericksburg police they should turn the bird over to a federally approved eagle rehabilitation specialist.

And so Valerie Ackerman soon got a call about the injured bird.

As she headed to Fredericksburg, she issued a stream of instructions to the attending officers.

"She was in constant contact with them, offering advice and talking them through it," Shelhorse said.

Ackerman arrived and, once the bird was stabilized, took it home to care for it.

She was unavailable for comment yesterday.

But police department officials had contacted her.

"When they talked with her this morning, she said it was doing very well, and really thought it was going to be fine," Shelhorse said on Thanksgiving Day.

Shelhorse marks this close encounter with our national bird as one of the odder calls the department has received.

"They, of course, get unusual animal calls all the time, but I don't know that they've ever gotten one involving a bald eagle and a train," he said with a laugh.

To reach GEORGE WHITEHURST:540/374-5438
Email: gwhitehurst@freelancestar.com