Golden Eagle #23-0116

Admission Date: 
February 13, 2023
Location of Rescue: 
Bath County, Virginia
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Undetermined skin mass
Died in care
Patient Status: 
Current Patient

On February 13, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources biologists were conducting a field research and banding project on Golden Eagles in Bath County. One of the eagles encountered during the project had a large, abnormal mass on the left side of its beak. A DWR biologist safely captured the eagle, and the bird was transported to the Wildlife Center of Virginia later that same day.

On admission, the eagle, likely a female, was bright and alert. Dr. Olivia, one of the Center's veterinary interns, examined the bird and found she was in good body condition, sufficiently hydrated, and did not have any apparent musculoskeletal injuries. The bird’s left eye showed evidence of previous trauma, but is considered to be fully healed and visual.

Radiographs were within normal limits, and the veterinary staff noted the bird had a full crop – indicating she had been able to hunt and scavenge for food appropriately in the wild. An in-house blood test revealed that the bird had a blood lead level of 0.128 ppm. While this lead level is considered "subclinical", the veterinary team will begin a course of oral chelation therapy, as no level of lead is safe

During a closer examination, Dr. Olivia described the mass on the eagle’s face as a “large, soft-ball sized featherless, fluctuant mass between the left eye and the left commissure of the mouth. There are numerous firm aspects of the mass, with several large fluctuant pockets.” Approximately 20 mL of fluid was drained from the mass, which is being tested to better determine the cause and nature of the eagle’s condition.

While the cause of the mass is currently not known, the veterinary staff plan to surgically debride and debulk the area during the coming days. On Monday, February 20, the eagle will be transported to Virginia Veterinary Specialists (VVS) in Charlottesville to receive a CT scan, hopefully providing further insight in to the cause of the mass. Staff at VVS have worked with the Center to help provide care for several other patients over the years, including a bobcat in 2013, and one of 2022's bear cubs.

For now, the eagle will remain in the Center’s indoor Hold area where she will receive antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, fluids, and undergo chelation therapy to eliminate the lead from her system. Due to the unknown underlying cause of mass and its placement near the eagle’s left eye, this patient’s prognosis is currently guarded.

Check out a day in this Eagle's treatment here: 



Your donation will help provide veterinary medical care and advanced diagnostic procedures for this Golden Eagle ... and more than 3,800 other patients that the Wildlife Center will help this year. 


February 27, 2023

During the past week, additional testing revealed that Golden Eagle #23-0116’s facial mass was likely related to aspergillosis, a fungal infection that affects the respiratory system. Veterinary staff continued to treat the eagle with systemic anti-fungal medications, nebulization treatments, and oxygen therapy but began to note a decline in her overall status and signs of increasing respiratory stress.

The veterinary team was deeply saddened to find that Golden Eagle #23-0116 died on Monday, February 27. Staff found the eagle deceased inside the Center’s oxygen cage early in the morning. The cause of the eagle's passing is suspected to be directly related to systemic aspergillosis, as she developed severe respiratory signs on February 26.

Despite the outcome for this patient, veterinary staff are grateful for the opportunity to share their findings with DWR biologists and further research efforts to better understand Golden Eagle populations in Virginia.

February 22, 2023

During the past week, Golden Eagle #23-0116’s overall condition has been stable. The veterinary team have tested several samples taken from the bird’s facial mass for signs of various infections, with most results being within normal limits. On February 18, the staff determined that she was ready to be transitioned to the Center's outdoor Metals enclosure in a large crate to reduce her levels of stress in between treatments. 

On the morning of February 20, Dr. Karra and LVT Jess Ransier transported the eagle from the Wildlife Center of Virginia to VVS in Charlottesville for her scheduled CT scan. Based on the results, an abnormality related to the eagle’s sinus cavities may be involved in the cause of the mass. Some bony change was also noted from the scan, indicating the mass may have been present for a long period of time before she was admitted to the Center.


On February 22, veterinary staff anesthetized the eagle to surgically debride the mass and reduce its overall size. The bird recovered without incident from anesthesia, and Dr. Karra noted that in addition to this procedure, the mass has been improving markedly with antibiotic and antifungal treatments. For now, the eagle will remain in Metals where the veterinary staff will continue to administer daily medications, monitor her clinical signs, and continue to develop a plan of care. Due to the eagle’s unresolved facial mass, high levels of stress, and inconsistent eating, her prognosis remains guarded. 

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