On March 31, a mature Bald Eagle was found in a field in Gloucester County. The bird was unable to fly more than a few feet at a time. It was captured and transported to a permitted rehabilitator in the area. The rehabilitator and her veterinarian were not able to find any fractures; they noted that the bird was able to stand, but was wobbly. A volunteer transporter brought the bird to the Wildlife Center later the same evening.
Dr. Dana Tedesco, the Center’s veterinary intern, was on-call to admit the Bald Eagle Sunday evening. She performed a physical examination and initial blood work, including a test for lead toxicity. The test result indicated that the eagle was positive for lead poisoning – at a level of 0.735 ppm, treatment was needed.
Dr. Dana also found the eagle to be dehydrated and depressed. The bird had a large crop, and regurgitated some food. Dr. Dana noted that the eagle’s lungs sounded full of fluid – likely indicating aspiration pneumonia. Lead poisoning can sometimes cause crop stasis in some raptors – which means that the bird’s digestive system does not function properly, and food sometimes does not move through the bird’s system. In this case, when food was not moving through the eagle’s crop, the bird attempted to regurgitate some food – and likely ended up inhaling some fluid. One set of radiographs were quickly taken, just to check for the presence of lead in the eagle’s digestive tract. No metal was seen.
Dr. Dana performed a “crop wash” on the Bald Eagle to remove the food that was in the eagle’s crop. In addition to the usual bits of food, Dr. Dana also removed several small pieces of plastic in the course of the crop wash. The first dose of chelation therapy was provided. This treatment involved injecting a CaEDTA solution under the skin on the eagle’s upper thigh. This “chelator” will bind to the lead to take it out of the blood – essentially “scrubbing” the blood clean.
The Bald Eagle was placed in the Center’s holding room for the night. On Monday, April 1, Dr. Dana reported that the eagle appeared brighter and more alert, though is still in guarded condition.