Bald Eagle #13-0174

Admission Date: 
March 9, 2013
Release Date: 
April 25, 2013
Location of Rescue: 
Eastern Shore, VA
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Lead toxicity
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

On Saturday, March 9, an immature Bald Eagle from Virginia’s Eastern Shore was brought to the Wildlife Center. The volunteer transporter also brought four dead eagles from the same rescue site.

The unusual circumstances surrounding this eagle’s rescue are being investigated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Law Enforcement. The Center collected evidence and is cooperating with the authorities in this investigation.

The immature Bald Eagle, likely a male, was admitted as patient #13-0174. Dr. Dana Tedesco, the Center’s veterinary intern, examined the bird when it arrived. The eagle was quiet,  and while the bird was standing in its transport enclosure, its head was drooping. Dr. Dana performed a physical examination, radiographs, and initial blood work, which included a lead test. The results came back at 0.27 ppm – an elevated, but not yet critical level of lead, but one that warranted treatment. Chelation therapy was started.

On radiographs, Dr. Dana was able to see multiple metal fragments in the bird’s digestive tract. To avoid a continued leaching of the lead into the eagle’s bloodstream, Dr. Dana formulated a “Metamucil slurry” tube-feeding plan so that the metal fragments will quickly move through the eagle’s system.  

Since beginning treatment, the eagle has been a little brighter and more alert. Additional radiographs will be taken on March 12 to check on the status of the fragments. An additional lead test will be performed on March 13.

Eagle Rescue in the News

"Four Dead Bald Eagles are Found in Northampton County,"

"Four Dead Eagles Found Dead on Eastern Shore," WAVY-TV

"Reports: Four Dead Eagles Found on Eastern Shore, One Treated for Lead," WTKR-TV

"Four Eagles Dead on Eastern Shore," WTKR-TV

"Eagle Deaths on VA's Eastern Shore Investigated," NBC12-TV

Your special donation will help the Center to provide state-of-the-art medical care to this Bald Eagle ... and to the 2,500 sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals the Center will treat this year. Please help!

Post-release postscript: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that the deaths of the four other eagles were caused by carbofuran pesticide poisoning. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has an open investigation of the case and is still seeking information. 


April 25, 2013

The release of Bald Eagle #13-0174 at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge today went beautifully. A crowd of about 150 people were present as Dr. Dave released the eagle into a large field. When tossed into the air, the eagle quickly banked away from the crowd, and soared higher and higher, until it was out of sight.


Bald Eagle #13-0174 Release

Eagle Release In the News

"Poisoned Bald Eagle Returns to the Wild in Virginia Beach; Reward Offered for Information," WTKR-TV

"Reck on the Road:  Eagle Release", WAVY-TV

"Once-ailing Bald Eagle Released in Virginia Beach," The Virginian-Pilot

"Reward for Info About Poisoning of Bald Eagles," North Country Gazette

Now-healthy Eagle Returns to the Wild," The Virginian-Pilot

"Officials:  Eagles on E. Shore Poisoned Unintentionally," The Virginian-Pilot

Additional Release Photos:

Property of Holly Smith:

April 24, 2013

Wildlife Center to Release Bald Eagle on Thursday, April 25

Eagle, Rescued from Virginia’s Eastern Shore and Treated at Wildlife Center, Will Be Released at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

The Wildlife Center of Virginia, a leading teaching and research hospital for native wildlife, will release a Bald Eagle on Thursday, April 25 at 2:00 p.m. at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach.       

The release is free and open to the public. Please meet at the Refuge Headquarters building, 1324 Sandbridge Road, Virginia Beach. Individuals who wish to attend are asked to RSVP to the Center at

Participating in the release will be Dr. Dave McRuer, Director of Veterinary Medicine at the Wildlife Center and one of the veterinarians who treated this eagle. 

This Bald Eagle – an immature bird, and likely a male – was brought to the Wildlife Center in Waynesboro on March 9 and assigned Patient Number 13-0174 – the 174th patient of 2013. The volunteer transporter also brought four dead eagles from the same rescue site – near Birdsnest in Northampton County on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The unusual circumstances surrounding this eagle’s rescue and the death of the four other birds are being investigated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 

Dr. Dana Tedesco, the Center’s veterinary intern, gave the Bald Eagle a complete physical examination on March 9, including radiographs, initial blood work, and a lead test. The eagle had elevated lead levels; radiographs also revealed multiple metal fragments in the bird’s digestive tract. Chelation therapy [designed to lower lead levels] was started; Dr. Dana also started a “Metamucil slurry” tube-feeding plan so that the metal fragments would move quickly through the eagle’s digestive system.

By March 13, the eagle was showing improvement and was moved to one of the Center’s outdoor flight pens. The Center’s rehabilitation staff has been exercising the eagle in outdoor flight pens, gradually building up the bird’s stamina. During its recovery, the eagle has been one of the patients featured on Critter Cam, a live online broadcast through the Center’s website. The eagle is flying well; after reviewing results from blood work done on April 22, Center veterinarians have cleared #13-0174 for release. 

It is estimated that the Bald Eagle population of North America numbered about half a million before European settlement. With the loss of habitat, hunting, and the effects of DDT and other pesticides, the U.S. eagle population plummeted. In 1977, for example, there were fewer than 50 Bald Eagle nests in Virginia. 

Today, the Bald Eagle population in Virginia is on the rebound. There are now more than 1,000 active Bald Eagle nests in the Commonwealth. 

Since its founding in 1982, the Wildlife Center has treated scores of Bald Eagles, done extensive studies of environmental factors that affect eagles and other wildlife, and worked to reform laws and regulations to strengthen the protection afforded to Bald Eagles.     

Every year, about 2,600 animals – ranging from Bald Eagles to chipmunks – are brought to the Wildlife Center for care. “The goal of the Center is to restore our patients to health and return as many as possible to the wild,” Wildlife Center President and Co-founder Ed Clark has said. “At the Wildlife Center, we treat to release.”  

The Wildlife Center of Virginia is an internationally acclaimed teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine. Since its founding in 1982, the nonprofit Center has cared for more than 60,000 wild animals, representing 200 species of native birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. The Center’s public education programs share insights gained through the care of injured and orphaned wildlife, in hopes of reducing human damage to wildlife. 

In July 2011, the Center launched Critter Cam, which has allowed wildlife enthusiasts around the world to watch a variety of Center patients, including #13-0174. During its first year of operation, the Critter Cam site was visited more than two million times. A link to Critter Cam may be found on the Center’s homepage –  

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is one of more than 550 refuges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Back Bay NWR contains more than 9,100 acres; habitats include beach, dunes, woodlands, farm fields, and marshes. Back Bay NWR will mark its 75th anniversary on June 8. Additional information about Back Bay is available at

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Note to the Press: Media representatives are invited to attend the release. Please contact Randy Huwa at 540.942.9453 or at  to RSVP.

Photos of patients treated at the Wildlife Center, including the Bald Eagle to be released on Thursday, are available. Please contact Randy Huwa at 540.942.9453 or at

April 23, 2013

The rehabilitation staff report that Bald Eagle #13-0174 has been flying very well throughout the past week. They are pleased with his current level of conditioning, so on Monday, April 22, the veterinary team drew pre-release blood work. After the diagnostic team analyzed and report the results, Dr. Rich cleared the eagle for release. Dr. Dave will band the eagle with both federal and state leg bands on Wednesday, April 24.

The Bald Eagle will be released on Thursday, April 25 at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Dr. Dave will be present for the 2:00 p.m. release, which is open to the public. If you will be attending the release, please email The release will take place at Ashville Bridge Creek Environmental Education Center at 3022 New Bridge Road.

April 16, 2013

The rehabilitation staff began exercising Bald Eagle #13-0174 on April 15. Amber reports that during the first session, the Bald Eagle flew quite well – the bird was able to fly ten laps perch-to-perch. Exercise and monitoring will continue this week.

April 11, 2013

Bald Eagle #13-0174 was moved to flight pen A1 on the morning of April 11. Housing the eagle by itself will allow the rehabilitation staff to begin exercising the eagle on the weekend of April 13.

April 9, 2013

Bald Eagle #13-0174 has been eating well during the past two weeks. Critter Cam viewers have likely noticed the colorful “bumpers” that offer protection to the eagle’s carpi [wrists]; the carpal bumpers are a routine preventative measure that the Wildlife Center veterinary team take to ensure that the eagles do not injure themselves when flying in the large flight pen.

Within the last week, Bald Eagle #13-0174 managed to remove one of the bumpers – and did have a small wound on its right carpus when the veterinary team caught the eagle for a routine foot and feather check on April 8. Dr. Rich cleaned the carpus and reapplied the protective bumpers.

As soon as Turkey Vulture #13-0166 is released, the Bald Eagle will be moved into flight pen A1 so that it may be exercised and conditioned for release.

March 28, 2013

Bald Eagle #13-0174 has been eating well this week. The rehab staff report that the eagle has been eating a whole rat each day. The bird currently weighs in at 3.48 kgs – a higher weight than when it was first admitted.

On March 20, the Bald Eagle had additional blood work performed, which revealed a mildly elevated liver value. This could be caused by heavy metal toxicity [for example, lead], pesticide poisoning, or a different toxin; it could also be the result of an infection or virus. There are many variables, but because the eagle is stable and now eating well, the bird will simply be monitored. Additional blood work will be performed on April 3.

Because the eagle’s appetite is much improved, the veterinary team decided to move the bird back into a larger space for additional monitoring. The eagle was moved to flight pen A2 on March 27 – to share a space with Bald Eagle #11-0230. Watch for the two eagles on Critter Cam!

March 26, 2013

Since mid-March, the eagle has shown little interest in eating food on its own, and the veterinary staff hand-fed the bird for several days.

For two days in a row – March 23 and 24 – rehabilitation staff noted that Bald Eagle #13-0174 ate nearly all of its meal, and hand-feeding was not required. On March 25, the eagle had once again not eaten its meal; it is possible that the bird was deterred from eating due to the snowfall on the night of March 24.

Because the bird has gained weight, the veterinary staff feel that hand-feeding is not necessary at this point. If the bird fails to eat on its own or loses weight, the veterinary staff will resume hand-feeding.

March 18, 2013

Bald Eagle #13-0174 has been inconsistently eating over the past several days. To ensure the eagle receives proper sustenance, the vet staff will hand-feed the bird on the days it does not eat on its own.

On March 18, the eagle was moved to a smaller C-pen until the bird begins to eat on its own; in a smaller flight pen, the staff can more easily catch the eagle for hand-feeding.

Follow-up blood work is scheduled for March 20.

March 15, 2013

Bald Eagle #13-0174 appears to be doing well in A3, the Center’s largest flight pen. The bird is able to fly to the high perches in the enclosure. The staff will continue to monitor the quality of the bird’s flight, appetite, and endurance after prolonged flight. Tune in to the Center’s Critter Cam to observe this bird in action!

March 13, 2013

Dr. Rich, the Center’s veterinary fellow, took an additional set of radiographs of Bald Eagle #13-0174 on March 12. Dr. Rich reports that it appears as though all metal has moved through the eagle’s system in the past few days. The eagle remains bright and alert.

An additional lead test was performed this morning; the results were 0.178 ppm, indicating that chelation therapy was effective. The eagle will be moved to flight pen A3 after the afternoon treatments today.