On April 25, a mature Bald Eagle was found lying on the ground, unable to fly, near Sandy Bottom Nature Park in Hampton, Virginia. A park ranger was able to capture the bird and took it to a local permitted wildlife rehabilitator. The eagle was transported to the Center the following day.
The eagle was bright and alert at admission, and the veterinary team found several small abrasions on the eagle's feet and a more significant wound on the eagle's right leg. Radiographs confirmed that the eagle did not have any fractures, but revealed a small, round, metallic pellet in the eagle's body wall as well as several pieces of metallic debris in the eagle's ventriculus [part of the digestive tract], including a metal wire. A lead test confirmed that the Bald Eagle had lead toxicity at a level of 0.15 ppm.
The veterinary team carefully cleaned the eagle's leg wound and decided to perform a gastric lavage on the Bald Eagle to remove the pieces of metal from the digestive tract. The lavage procedure essentially washes the debris out of the affected area; the veterinarians wanted to remove any possible lead fragments to prevent more severe lead toxicity; they were also particularly concerned about the metal wire puncturing the eagle's digestive tract. The team was able to successfully remove a number of metal fragments, though the wire remained in the eagle. The metal pellet in the eagle's body wall was left untouched; based on the shape of the pellet, it's unlikely that the pellet was made of lead, and the potential for lead toxicity is greatest with metal fragments in the digestive system or lodged directly in the bone.
The eagle started on a course of antibiotics and chelation therapy, and was placed in a crate in the Center's holding room. In the weeks following admission, the staff carefully checked the eagle's feces every day for signs of the metal wire; they also carefully monitored for any dramatic attitude changes that may indicate that the metal wire was causing any internal damage.
On May 8, the staff debrided the wound on the eagle's leg; they were able to trim away the dead tissue and freshened the edges to more cleanly suture the wound shut. The eagle was moved to a small outdoor enclosure [C-pen] the following day.
The Bald Eagle has been much more bright and alert following her lead treatment; unfortunately, despite protective carpal [wrist] bumpers, the eagle has managed to bump into the walls of the small outdoor enclosure, creating carpal wounds that the veterinarians have had to manage, in addition to treating the bird's leg wound. On May 17, the eagle was moved to flight pen A3, to allow the bird to have more space.
The veterinary team was never able to confirm that the metal wire in the bird's GI system had passed, but at this point, Dr. Karra does not anticipate any additional issues. The next time the bird is caught to manage her wounds, the team will likely take a quick set of radiographs just to check and see if the wire is still there.