Bald Eagle #17-1993

Admission Date: 
July 31, 2017
Location of Rescue: 
Westmoreland County, VA
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Gunshot; lead toxicity
Euthanized due to chronic issues from lead toxicity
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

On July 31, the Wildlife Center admitted a mature male Bald Eagle that was found in the water in Westmoreland County. The eagle was initially rescued and taken to a local wildlife rehabilitator before he was transported and admitted to the Wildlife Center.

The eagle was bright and alert upon admission. Dr. Alexa, one of the Center’s veterinary interns, noted that the bird had several bumblefoot lesions on both feet – these inflamed wounds can occur in the wild when a bird is not bearing weight appropriately. Radiographs showed a small metal opacity in the bird’s thoracic cavity, and an old fracture of the bird’s right leg and an old fracture of the bird’s left pelvis. Blood was drawn for a lead test; results came back at 0.12 ppm – a subclinical level that didn’t warrant immediate treatment.


Based on presentation, it may be that the eagle was shot, which fractured the bird’s left leg and pelvis, which caused the bird difficulty standing and walking, which in turn caused the bumblefoot lesions on the bird’s feet. Somehow, the eagle managed to survive as his fractures began to heal.

Two days after admission, the eagle’s lead levels were re-checked; the veterinary team noted that the lead levels increased slightly, so a round of chelation therapy was started to treat the lead. In the weeks following, the eagle’s feet were debrided, bandaged, and treated, and the bumblefoot lesions slowly began to heal.


At the end of August, the eagle was moved to a small outdoor enclosure for additional observation. The veterinary team continues to check the eagle’s feet regularly, to ensure that the bird’s foot problems continue to improve. Soon, the eagle will be moved to a larger flight area for observation.

The Center depends on the donations of caring individuals to provide veterinary care to wildlife and training in wildlife veterinary medicine. Please help!


December 13, 2017

The rehabilitation and veterinary staff have continued to exercise and observe Bald Eagle #17-1993 during the past few weeks. Unfortunately, the eagle is unable to maintain height and stamina while flying. Dr. Ernesto completed a full cardiac evaluation and found that the eagle has two severe arrhythmias and a heart murmur. It’s highly probable that the heart issue is due to lead toxicity – Dr. Ernesto has research experience with the permanent cardiac damage that lead can cause.

The team made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the eagle. Learn more about lead toxicity here.

November 14, 2017

The two Bald Eagles in flight pen A3 continue with their daily exercise; eagle #17-1993 has been struggling with lift and stamina during exercise sessions and is only flying between 5-10 passes each time. Bald Eagle #17-2469 is flying well and is flying at least 15 passes during each session. 

October 30, 2017

The two Bald Eagles in flight pen A3 have been exercising regularly during the past couple of weeks; both birds are getting along and eating well. Wildlife rehabilitator Brie reports that eagle #17-1993 generally has poor lift and stamina; the bird is exercising about five to 10 passes during each session.

An additional eye examination on Bald Eagle #17-2469 confirmed that bird’s eye injuries should not affect the bird’s vision; the team decided to increase the eagle’s daily exercise regimen to five to 10 passes.

October 18, 2017

On October 10, Bald Eagle #17-1993 was moved to flight pen A3. At first, the bird was not flying well, though was able to make it up to a high perch; the rehabilitation team slowly started a daily exercise regimen for the eagle. About a week later, the staff reported that the eagle was making improvements; the eagle is able to fly from end-to-end in the large flight pen. The rehabilitation team will continue exercise, gradually pushing the bird to fly more laps to prepare him for release.