Golden Eagle #18-0001

Admission Date: 
January 1, 2018
Location of Rescue: 
Smyth County, VA
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Wing laceration
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

On December 29, a private citizen in Smyth County found a Golden Eagle down in a cow pasture, unable to fly. The eagle was easily captured and taken to a wildlife rehabilitator, who took the eagle to a local animal hospital for radiographs. The bird was then taken to the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke for treatment of a severe wing laceration; the eagle came to the Wildlife Center of Virginia on January 1 and was admitted as 18-0001 – the first patient of 2018!

Dr. Alexa, one of the Center’s veterinary interns, examined the eagle when it arrived. The wing laceration noted by the staff of Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center had worsened on the morning of January 1; Dr. Alexa carefully assessed the wound and noted that it was deep enough to affect the eagle's tendons and muscles in the area. While there was no bone exposure noted, the skin and surrounding tissues were very contracted. Dr. Ernesto, the Center's hospital director, examined the wound as well and believes that the minor patagial ligament may be involved with the laceration -- an injury that could cause the bird to be non-releasable. The veterinary team suspects the wound is at least a week old. 

Blood was drawn for analysis; while most of the initial blood work was within normal limits, the eagle tested positive for lead toxicosis at a level of 0.10 ppm. This level of lead typically does not warrant treatment, though the veterinary team thought the eagle was quieter than it should be, so chelation therapy was started. 

Dr. Alexa carefully debrided the eagle's wound before re-bandaging the wing. Dr. Ernesto will take the eagle to surgery on January 2 for further wound debridement and exploration. 

The prognosis for the eagle is guarded to poor due to the severity of the laceration and likely involvement of the minor patagial ligament.

Your special donation will help the Center provide care to this injured Golden Eagle ... and to the other 2,600+ patients that the Center will treat this year.


January 22, 2018

Dr. Ernesto and the veterinary team continued to care for Golden Eagle #18-0001 in the weeks following his admission. The eagle’s severe wing wound was surgically debrided every other day. The initial results were encouraging, but on Wednesday, January 17, Dr. Ernesto felt that the wound was too compromised. The difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize the eagle.

January 9, 2018

The vet staff have been carefully caring for Golden Eagle #18-0001 each day. The bird’s deep wound appears to be starting to heal, with granulation tissue forming and there is no sign of infection. A re-check lead test on January 7 revealed “low” results, indicating that the chelation therapy worked and removed the lead from the eagle’s blood. Because lead can be stored in the bones and released later, the eagle will receive another lead analysis in a week.

The eagle is not yet eating on his own, so the vet staff hand-feed the bird daily. The eagle remains bright and alert.

January 4, 2018

On January 2, Dr. Ernesto performed surgery on Golden Eagle #18-0001 to further debride the necrotic tissue on the right wing.

During the procedure, Dr. Ernesto noted that the extensor muscle in the wing is lacerated, and there is exposed bone and nerve tissue; this could lead to osteomyelitis (infection of the bone) or nerve damage. A long-term prognosis can be better assessed by mid-January.

The veterinary team will perform wound care every other day, including bandage changes and checking on the tissue surrounding the surgical debridement site. On January 4, Dr. Ernesto indicated that the tissue is looking healthier than earlier in the week.

On January 8, the Golden Eagle will begin a course of therapeutic laser therapy to promote healing in the wing.