MARION COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) - It was an unusual day on the water for a Chattanooga man who ended up rescuing a potentially dangerous raptor bird from drowning.
TWRA officers say they had received several calls about an injured osprey, but hadn't been able to catch it until now.
David Rutledge says he was boating on Nickajack Lake when he noticed something frantically bobbing up and down in the water. When he got closer, he realized it was a large bird, an osprey, injured and clinging to life.
Knowing it's a dangerous animal to get close to, he came up with a creative way to rescue it.
"It's a very big bird. Talons were at least a couple inches long," rescuer David Rutledge says.
Coming in at around two feet tall and a wing span of up to six feet, the osprey species of raptor is no harmless little birdy, it's a hunter.
"They're wild animals. They're not your every day house pet, so you don't know what they're capable of," TWRA Officer Barry Baird says.
But, David Rutledge couldn't just let it drown, so he devised a plan.
"The only thing I could think of was the inner tube. Pulled the tube in front of the bird and he swam up to it and started to climb onto it," Rutledge says.
He began to tow.
"People saw us on the water towing a giant bird on an inner tube and we got a few funny looks," Rutledge says.
The osprey stayed on the tube for two hours while David made calls and waited for help to arrive.
"He was never aggressive toward us one bit. It was almost like he realized that we were trying to help him," Rutledge says.
TWRA officers stressed for David stay away from it, and headed out. They say they were shocked it was even playing along with the rescue mission.
"I guess it just saw it's last ditch effort to get to land and then made an attempt and I was surprised," Officer Baird says.
Once to shore, officers safely captured it.
"They were far more fearless than I was," Rutledge says.
"We had a type of hook to catch him first by the legs, then we got a hold of him and got to put him in the cage," Officer Baird says.
It's now being rehabilitated on Signal Mountain for its injuries, likely to its legs or hip, and will be released once it's healed.
"I just hope that he can fly again," Rutledge says.
Rutledge says he does plan to visit the bird while it's in rehab.