Bald Eagle #17-2705

Admission Date: 
December 2, 2017
Location of Rescue: 
Charles City County, VA
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Wing fracture; lead toxicity
Patient Status: 
Current Patient

On December 1, a citizen in Charles City County saw a mature Bald Eagle on the ground, unable to fly. The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries was called, and an officer responded to the scene and was able to capture the eagle and take it to a permitted wildlife rehabilitator in the area. The following morning, the rehabilitator noted a wound on the eagle's wing; it appeared as though the eagle self-inflicted the wound during the night in the crate. A local veterinarian treated the bird before it was transported to the Wildlife Center and admitted as patient #17-2705 -- the 52nd Bald Eagle admitted in 2017.

Dr. Alexa, one of the Center's veterinary interns, examined the male eagle when he arrived. The eagle was bright and alert and was in fairly good body condition. Dr. Alexa was able to palpate a right ulnar fracture in the bird's wing, as well as soft tissue swelling around the fracture site. She also noted the small open wound over the eagle's left carpus [wrist]. Blood was drawn for analysis and a lead test; lead results came back at 0.23 ppm, which is at a level requiring treatment. 

Radiographs revealed a spiral fracture of the bird's right ulna; Dr. Alexa placed a bandage on the eagle's right wing to stabilize the fracture. She carefully sutured the wound on the bird's left wing, and started a course of chelation therapy. Chelation therapy consists of an injection of CaEDTA twice daily for five days; this “chelator” will bind to the lead to take it out of the blood – essentially “scrubbing” the blood clean. The bird was placed in the Center's holding room. 

The veterinary team will continue to provide chelation therapy through December 7 and will check the eagle's wing bandage daily. 

Your special donation will help the Center to provide specialized veterinary medical care to this Bald Eagle … and all of the patients admitted in 2017. Please help! 


January 22, 2018

Bald Eagle #17-2705 was brought into the Center’s clinic for a set of follow-up radiographs on January 20. Dr. Monica found that the eagle’s fractured wing had healed nicely. The bird was moved into one of the Center’s C-pens, which has enough space for the eagle to stretch his wings and make short hops from perch to perch, but it still small enough to restrict the eagle’s activity.

The eagle is eating well; once the bird has had time to get used to stretching and using his wing again, he’ll be moved to a larger flight space to continue to recover.

January 9, 2018

The veterinary team has been monitoring Bald Eagle #17-2705’s pox lesions daily; the lesions appear to be improving. On January 3, the Bald Eagle was moved to a small padded enclosure outside, in hopes that being away from the hospital would encourage the eagle’s appetite. The eagle started eating after he was moved.

Follow-up radiographs indicated that the eagle’s fractures are healing slowly; additional radiographs will be taken on January 13.

January 1, 2018

On December 22, Dr. Alexa noted a suspicious lesion on the side of Bald Eagle #17-2705’s beak during treatments. On closer examination, there was an additional small lesion on the other side of the eagle’s mouth as well. Dr. Alexa suspected avian pox – a virus often transmitted by mosquitoes. The Center has recently treated a screech-owl with avian pox; the virus could also be transmitted through contact with an infected surface.

Dr. Alexa took samples of the lesions and was able to confirm avian pox. The eagle was moved into the Center’s isolation room to continue treatment.

On December 30, the veterinary team took additional radiographs to check on the eagle’s healing wing fracture; radiographs showed good callus and bone healing of the original fracture, but unfortunately, Dr. Alexa noted a new spiral ulnar fracture near the original fracture. This was likely self-inflicted; this particular eagle has been difficult to manage in a small space. The team moved the bird to a larger padded space after re-wrapping the injured wing.

The bird’s pox lesions are improving, and the eagle is eating well.

December 21, 2017

Bald Eagle #17-2705 was moved to a crate in a small outdoor enclosure on December 14 in hopes that being outdoors would stimulate the eagle to eat on his own. It appears that the move worked; the eagle began eating a diet of rats soon after the move.

The veterinary team was pleased with the eagle’s radiographs on December 16 and began a regimen of physical therapy every three days to start to stretch and strengthen the eagle’s wing. An additional lead test was performed on December 19; even though the last recheck was “low”, lead levels can sometimes increase again since the heavy metal is stored in the bones and can move back into the bloodstream. This time, the level came back at 0.052 ppm, which is just 0.002 ppm above the lead machine’s “low” level. Dr. Ernesto does not anticipate that the eagle’s lead levels will rise again; it appears as though the first round of chelation therapy worked.

The eagle will continue to receive physical therapy until he is ready to move into a larger enclosure for observation.

December 13, 2017

Bald Eagle #17-2705 finished his course of chelation therapy last week; results from a re-check lead analysis were “low”, indicating that the first course of treatment worked. The eagle has been gradually getting brighter, though the staff have had to intermittently hand- and tube-feed the eagle to ensure he’s receiving adequate nutrition. 

The veterinary team noted an abscess developing on the eagle’s fractured wing; on December 9, the eagle was taken to surgery to lance and drain the abscess. Radiographs taken that same day indicate that the eagle’s fractured ulna is healing. 

The staff will continue to carefully monitor the eagle in the coming weeks. Additional radiographs are scheduled for December 16.