Bald Eagle #18-0046

Admission Date: 
January 22, 2018
Location of Rescue: 
Surry County, VA
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Unable to fly
Euthanized February 2, 2018
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

On the evening of January 22, the Wildlife Center admitted a sub-adult Bald Eagle from Surry County, Virginia. The eagle was found down on the ground, unable to fly, and was rescued by animal control officers.

Upon initial examination, Bald Eagle #18-0046 was alert but not very responsive to handling. A physical exam revealed abrasions on the forehead and near the eyes, as well as multiple deep puncture wounds on the legs, chest, and right wing. One of the wounds on the right leg was severe and penetrated deep into the soft tissue, and a wound on the right wing exposed the radius bone.  

Bloodwork was unremarkable and lead levels were low. Radiographs showed possible subcutaneous emphysema in the soft tissue surrounding the wounds, which could indicate bacterial infection.

Dr. Peach estimates that the injuries occurred sometime in the last week. Despite being found incapacitated on the ground, Bald Eagle #18-0046 was in good body condition on examination, indicating that the bird had been functioning well recently. It’s likely that the eagle sustained these injuries during a fight with another eagle. It’s possible that the injuries lead to sepsis from infection, which could severely impact the bird’s ability to fly and hunt and would cause death if untreated.

While the bird was anesthetized, the team picked away crusted blood and feathers to better visualize the wounds. They cleaned and treated the wounds and applied hydrogel to the right wing wound to keep the exposed bone moist. They started the eagle on pain medication and a course of antibiotics to treat a possibly severe bacterial infection from the multiple wounds. When waking the bird from anesthesia, the eagle may have regurgitated, which could cause aspiration and breathing complications; the team placed the eagle in the oxygen chamber overnight as a precaution.

If the eagle becomes brighter, following a few days of supportive care, the veterinary staff will again anesthetize the bird to debride and suture closed several of the more severe wounds, including the wound that is exposing bone on the wing.

Your donation will help the Center to provide specialized veterinary medical care to this Bald Eagle … and all of the patients admitted in 2018. Please help! 


February 5, 2018

During the past week, the veterinary team continued to monitor Bald Eagle 18-0046’s inability to use her right foot. Sadly, the eagle was not responding to stimulation in most of her toes. She remained sternal in her crate and was unable or unwilling to perch.

Because there was no improvement in the eagle’s condition, the veterinary team decided that humane euthanasia was the best option. Bald Eagle #18-0046 was euthanized on Friday, February 2.

Dr. Peach and Vet Technician Jaclyn cleaning and assessing Bald Eagle #18-0046's leg wound on January 30.

January 30, 2018

Since Bald Eagle #18-0046 first arrived at the Center, the bird has been sternal (laying on its keel) and not standing. During the first several days of treatment, the staff noted that the eagle was not using its right leg at all, likely due to trauma and soft tissue swelling to that leg.

On January 29, in an attempt to alleviate pressure on the eagle’s keel and legs, Dr. Peach put the eagle into a sling in the cage; however, the eagle quickly became agitated by the setup and pulled out of the sling.

The veterinary staff started the eagle on a course of daily laser therapy on the leg wound to see if this helps promote healing and return function to the right leg.

Aside from immobility and loss of function in the right leg, the eagle’s appetite has been poor and the vet staff is hand-feeding the bird each day.

If the eagle’s condition, attitude, and appetite do not improve by February 2, the veterinary staff will likely make the decision to euthanize the eagle. Until then, laser therapy, pain management, and hand-feeding will continue.