On the evening of December 15, a private citizen in Chesterfield County observed two Bald Eagles fighting on the ground in her pasture, an interaction not uncommon in this species. She was able to safely capture the injured eagle after the other had left. Chesterfield County Animal Services was contacted, and an officer arrived to transport the patient to a veterinarian.
Initially, the eagle was transported to Wellesley Animal Hospital near Richmond. Dr. Ernesto Dominguez -- a former Wildlife Center hospital director -- stabilized the eagle on location, performed radiographs, and provided fluids before referring the patient to the Center. It was transported to the Wildlife Center on that same day.
Upon admission, the eagle was bright, alert, and responsive during an intake exam with Dr. Karra. However, the bird showed mild signs of paresis due to its inability to stand or use its legs, and hemorrhaging in the mouth and throat was observed. Following a physical exam, a blood sample was taken for emergency testing, revealing a lead toxicity level of 0.2 ppm -- technically categorized as "subclinical" (not outwardly showing obvious signs or symptoms), but still requiring treatment. Since no level of lead is safe, the veterinary team started a course of oral chelation therapy. To learn more about lead toxicity in raptors, a serious yet preventable issue, click here.
The radiographs taken at Wellesley Animal Hospital showed internal trauma, which could have been sustained from impacting the ground while fighting with the other eagle.
After spending the night indoors in an oxygen chamber, the bird was found to be bright, alert, and responsive the following morning, but laying on its sternum rather than standing. The patient is currently being given pain and anti-inflammatory medications and is also receiving treatment for lead toxicity.
The prognosis for this eagle moving forward is guarded to grave, due to the difficult nature of treating internal trauma combined with the effects of lead toxicosis.