A bald eagle swimming in the Atlantic Ocean nearly drowned last week -- until two lobstermen spotted the struggling bird off the Maine coast and swooped in to help it.
John Chipman Jr. told the Bangor Daily News he and his sternman Kevin Meaney were on a boat off Schoodic Island when they spotted the amazing sight -- a bald eagle doing the "butterfly stroke" through the water.
"I knew it wasn’t going to make it," Chipman told the news site. "It wasn’t really a long way from land, but for him to swim that far? It would have been a long way for him to go."
Chipman and Meaney observed the bird swimming and stopping repeatedly as it made its way to land.
"He kept stopping, and he tried to jump up on a lobster buoy. He couldn’t balance himself and he kept falling back off," Chipman recalled. "I immediately went over when we saw him, and tried to steer him toward land, but I could see he was getting tired."
Chipman said they decided to jump in and help the bird after a while. The two lobstermen created a "little life raft" to pull the bald eagle to safety.
"I kind of reached down, patted the top of his head, and told him it would be all right," Meaney said.
The bald eagle perched on the stern of the boat for nearly an hour as it dried off and warmed up enough to fly.
Brian Allen, a biologist, told Bangor Daily News the lobstermen likely saved the bird's life.
"That cold ocean water can be very hard on them, and likely then hypothermia [could have set in],” Allen said. “[The lobstermen] probably saved the eagle’s life if he couldn’t have found a nearby shore to climb out on eventually."
Allen added the eagle most likely ended up in the water after trying to scoop up a fish for a meal.