Bald Eagle #19-0761

Admission Date: 
May 5, 2019
Location of Rescue: 
Bland County, Virginia
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Nest destruction
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

On May 4, a fledgling Bald Eagle fell to the ground in Bland County, Virginia, after the young bird’s nest was destroyed by natural causes the previous night. A Conservation Police Officer rescued and transported the eagle to the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center in Roanoke, where it was stabilized before being transferred to the Wildlife Center on May 5 and admitted as patient #19-0761.

Dr. Karra, the Center’s veterinary intern, examined the eagle when it arrived. Bald Eagle #19-0761 was bright and alert, but was noted to be thin with a weight of 3.7 kg. A physical exam revealed the eagle had sustained an injury to its left leg, and radiographs confirmed a left tibiotarsus fracture. Radiographs also revealed evidence of free air within the eagle’s body cavity, most-likely caused by a ruptured air sac -- an injury known to be consistent with impact-related trauma. An eye examination was unremarkable, and blood work was within normal limits, aside from low lead levels that do not require treatment at this time.

Veterinary staff administered fluids, anti-inflammatories, and pain medication. A bandage was placed on the eagle’s leg to temporarily stabilize the fracture, and the bird was placed in a crate in the Center's indoor holding room.

On the afternoon of May 8, Dr. Karra performed surgery on the eagle to repair the left tibiotarsus fracture; the procedure was particularly challenging due to a large amount of overlap and severe contracture between the two bone fragments, making reduction [ideal alignment] difficult. Several small pins were inserted into each end of the fractured bones, and the pins were secured together outside of the bird’s wing with an external frame.


While under anesthesia, the eagle stopped breathing on its own. Veterinary staff hand-ventilated the bird for two hours during and after surgery, but were unable to resuscitate the eagle after anesthesia was terminated. It’s possible that the severity of the fracture, internal trauma, and the bird’s young age may have contributed to its failure to wake up from anesthesia. Sadly, the eagle passed away on May 8.