On November 15, two mature Bald Eagles were found down on the ground, next to a deer carcass. The birds were unable to stand and were exhibiting neurologic symptoms -- indicating possible poisoning. The birds were triaged by a permitted wildlife rehabilitator and driven to the Wildlife Center that same day.
The eagles -- #16-2439 and #16-2440 -- were both in grave condition at admission. Based on their symptoms and the history, Dr. Ernesto suspected poisoning. Dr. Ernesto took blood samples, and started both eagles on intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy. Bald Eagle #16-2439's lead tests came back positive at a level of 0.292 ppm; Bald Eagle #16-2440's lead tests revealed a level of 0.295 ppm. Dr. Ernesto began chelation therapy, to remove the lead from the birds' blood. Blood and samples of the food from the birds' crops were sent to an outside laboratory to test for additional toxins that he suspected may have been ingested.
The following morning, Dr. Ernesto was thrilled to find both eagles still alive. Both birds were started on sodium bicarbonate, to neutralize the effects of the suspected ingested poison. The birds continued to receive IV fluids and oxygen therapy.
Two days after admission, both birds were standing, and were more bright and alert. The supplemental oxygen was discontinued, but Dr. Ernesto continued to provide fluids to flush the suspected poison from the eagles' systems. Neither bird was interested in eating; both had to be force-fed to receive adequate nutrition.
On November 26, the birds were eating on their own and ready to move to a small outdoor flight pen; two days later they were moved to flight pen A1. Both birds are flying well, and the Wildlife Center team hopes that both will be able to be release this year.
Dr. Dave, the Center's veterinary director, received laboratory results on November 29. The results confirmed the presence of pentobarbital, a drug mainly used by veterinarians to euthanize animals. Sadly, secondary pentobarbital poisoning of wildlife occurs when euthanized animals are not properly disposed; in many cases, this has led to the deaths of wild, scavenging birds like Bald Eagles.