On August 18, a private citizen in Buena Vista, Virginia found an adult Bald Eagle in his backyard; the eagle was laying on its side and was not able to right itself when approached. Center staff were later alerted to the situation and contacted the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) to coordinate the eagle's rescue. Later that day, DWR wildlife technician Phillip Hanger responded to the scene, contained the bird, and brought it to the Wildlife Center.
On admission, the eagle was very quiet and in lateral recumbency (laying on its side), an abnormal position for a bird. Center veterinary intern Dr. Olivia examined the eagle and noted decreased muscle tone in the bird's legs, but did not find any obvious wounds or injuries. Dr. Olivia opted not to anesthetize the eagle for radiographs due to its stress levels and poor condition, which would make the procedure risky. An in-house lead test came back with a positive reading of 0.154 ppm lead – a level that is considered subclinical, but can still cause serious medical issues over time. After the exam, staff provided fluids and supportive care, with the plan of taking radiographs the following day once the eagle was more stable.
The next morning, the veterinary team felt that the eagle's condition had improved enough to take radiographs. Radiographs revealed an old, healed fracture in the bird's left leg, but no current injuries. The eagle's condition was likely caused by the lead in its system; lead toxicosis can cause a wide range of neurological effects, including ataxia, dull mentation, paralysis, and eventually death.
The veterinary team has started the eagle on chelation therapy, a method of removing the lead from the bird's system. They're also administering fluids to help protect the bird's kidneys during treatment. For now, the eagle will remain inside the Center where staff can keep a close eye on the bird and monitor for improvement in its mentation and strength. They plan to recheck the bird's lead levels later this week.