Bald Eagle #17-2731

Admission Date: 
December 12, 2017
Location of Rescue: 
James River State Park
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Lead toxicity; animal attack
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

On December 12, a mature male Bald Eagle was found down on the ground at James River State Park; the bird had severe injuries on his face and seemed unable to see. The bird was captured and transported to the Wildlife Center that same day.

Dr. Monica, one of the Center’s veterinary intern, examined the eagle when he arrived. She found significant scabbing around the right eye, along with swelling around the eye that crusted the eye closed. There was a deep, open wound near the left eye as well as several puncture wounds around the right side of the head. Dr. Monica also noted swelling and bruising of the eagle’s left leg, along with several puncture wounds. Blood was taken for analysis; lead results came back at 0.4 ppm, indicating lead toxicity.

Dr. Monica carefully cleaned all of the eagle’s wounds, including the eagle’s severely injured face. It was difficult for Dr. Monica to fully assess eye injuries; the eyelid of the right eye was only partially opened. While the globe of the eye appeared intact, an in-depth examination of the back of the eye could not be performed. Chelation therapy was started immediately to remove the lead from the bird’s system.

Dr. Monica also noted that the eagle was wearing a silver US Fish & Wildlife band. The Center staff reported the band number in the days following, though no banding record was found. After discussing the band number with the state eagle biologist and biologists at the Center for Conservation Biology, it appears as though the eagle was banded, though not reported to the banding lab. Based on the band prefix number, the banding could have occurred in the 1980s or early 1990s – making this eagle in his late 20’s or early 30’s.

Judging by the severe injuries, it’s likely that this eagle was attacked by an animal; eagles testing positive for lead at this level are often weak, depressed, and neurologic, which would make it unable to fly away from an animal attack.  

In the days following admission, the staff continued to carefully clean and monitor the eagle’s wounds. The swelling around the eagle’s eye is slowly improving, though the staff are still unable to fully examine the eye. The eagle’s prognosis is guarded; if the eye is permanently damaged, the eagle will not be able to be released.

Your donation will help provide veterinary medical care to this injured Bald Eagle during his stay in the hospital. Thank you!


January 1, 2018

On December 22, the veterinary team noted that the crusting around Bald Eagle #17-2731’s eye was beginning to peel off, so Dr. Alexa scheduled the eagle for surgery on December 23. During the procedure, Dr. Alexa attempted to surgically debride the eagle’s severe facial wounds, and found that they were more extensive than initially thought. There was necrotic tissue and bone along the right side of the bird’s face, which exposed his jaw bones. The area was flushed and bandaged and started on several antibiotics and pain medications.

On Christmas Day, Dr. Monica anesthetized the eagle to change his bandage and monitor the eagle’s wounds. Sadly, Dr. Monica found a significant amount of necrotic tissue, with no signs of new healthy tissue.  Dr. Monica was also able to examine more of the eagle’s injured eye, which appeared avisual.  Due to the extent of the injury, Dr. Monica made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the eagle.