Camp workers fired for rescuing bald eagle, want new policies

Two Boy Scout summer camp workers were fired after they found and rescued a bald eagle at a camp in Virginia. They say the camp needs a specific policy for how to deal with injured wildlife.

WASHINGTON — Two Boy Scout summer camp workers who were fired for rescuing a bald eagle say the camp needs a specific policy for how to deal with injured wildlife.

“I want there to be an actual policy,” said Eliana Bookbinder.

Bookbinder, 20, and her twin brother, Jeremy Bookbinder, of Accokeek, Maryland, were fired after an incident on June 26 at Camp Marriott, on the Goshen Scout Reservation in Goshen, Virginia.

They didn’t think an injured young bald eagle found near the camp would survive the night to be collected by a game warden the next day. They were shocked, they said, when an Eagle Scout supervisor told them to leave the badly injured animal alone.

“I could not, as a Scout and ethical human being, leave this animal out overnight to be eaten by coyotes or skunks or whatever,” Eliana Bookbinder said.

The Boy Scouts of America has a coed program for girls and women 14 to 20 years old.

The Bookbinders have experience handling raptors, they said, from volunteering at the Clearwater Nature Center in Clinton, Maryland, so they captured the bird and took it to a wildlife rehabilitator.

“They fired us for, in their opinion, breaking the law and for disobeying their orders,” Jeremy Bookbinder said.

The Bookbinders said that before being fired, camp supervisors told them inaccurately that it was unlawful for them to have contact with the eagle.

“They should have actually known what the laws were regarding eagles, especially since they’re right next to a national forest and there’s an eagle population there,” Jeremy Bookbinder said.

Eliana wants an apology and a policy change.

“The main thing I want them to do is have an actual plan and a policy about what to do if they have injured wildlife,” she said.

The camp does have a wildlife policy, according to a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America-National Capital Area Council, which owns and runs the camp.

“That’s what our superintendent put into effect. He called the appropriate authorities and was taking the steps that he felt were best to take care of the situation,” said Chief Communications Officer Aaron Chusid.

Procedures and rules on wildlife provided to campers specifically advise them to avoid potentially dangerous contact, Chusid said.

“No wild animals are to be handled or captured (except by properly trained staff). These include mice, snakes, turtles, raccoons, and all other species,” the policy states.

As for the Bookbinders disobeying orders, Chusid said he can’t discuss personnel matters.

“I can think for myself that there’d be plenty of reasons why I would encourage someone not to handle an injured animal,” Chusid said. “Especially if you think that their mother might be in the tree above them.”

Still, Eliana Bookbinder stands by the decision she and her brother made, even though she regrets no longer working at the place she’s called home for the past seven summers.

“I want there to be an actual policy that they should take injured wildlife to a wildlife rehabilitation center as soon as possible instead of it being whatever people decide that day,” Eliana Bookbinder said.

The eagle the Bookbinders found had a wing broken in multiple places. It was too badly injured to be saved and had to be euthanized.

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