Bald Eagle #20-0055

Admission Date: 
January 25, 2020
Location of Rescue: 
Accomack County, VA
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Lead toxicity
Patient Status: 
Current Patient

On January 24, an adult Bald Eagle reportedly “fell from the sky” and crash-landed in Accomack County. The eagle was taken to a local permitted wildlife rehabilitator for care before it was transferred to the Wildlife Center the following day.

Dr. Karra, the Center’s senior veterinary intern, examined the eagle as it arrived. The bird was slumped in the transport crate, exhibiting neurologic symptoms. Dr. Karra suspected lead toxicity and immediately drew blood for an in-house lead analysis. Results came back as “high”, indicating a level of lead in the bird’s body that was too high for the Center’s lead analyzer to read. The veterinary team performed several dilutions of the eagle’s blood and finally were able to obtain a reading of 8.7 ppm – a significantly high level of lead.

During the eagle’s physical examination, Dr. Karra found an old injury on the bird’s right eye; otherwise, no additional injuries were found. The eagle had an increased respiratory effort when being handled. A quick series of radiographs were taken to check for any evidence of lead in the bird’s gastrointestinal tract; none were found. Dr. Karra placed an intravenous catheter for IV fluids and started treatment for lead toxicity.

The veterinary team were surprised to find that the eagle survived the following day – though the bird has been exhibiting obvious neurologic signs due to the lead poisoning. While it’s encouraging that the eagle survived the first 48 hours of treatment, prognosis is still grave, given that eagles affected by lead can have permanent neurological deficits, as well as cardiac damage which can prevent release.

Your donation will help provide veterinary medical care to this poisoned Bald Eagle -- and will help more than 3,000 other wild animals in need in 2020. Thank you! 


February 21, 2020

Bald Eagle #20-0055 has been spending all of its time outdoors during the past week. The staff had hoped that the more natural setting of an outdoor enclosure would help improve the patient's healing process and allow the bird to be more comfortable.  The eagle still has a noted head tilt, but is receiving physical therapy to remedy this. Blood samples continue to be taken at regular intervals to monitor lead levels. 

February 10, 2020

Another lead test was performed on February 4; results came back at 0.155 ppm – a much reduced result compared to the level at the eagle’s admission at the end of January. The vet staff started another round of chelation therapy [both injectable and oral] to further reduce the lead in the bird’s system. On February 10, a lead test was performed with a result of 0.05 ppm. The vet staff decided to continue just the oral chelation medication for the next five days.

The eagle is intermittently eating and is still displaying a head tilt, though the staff hope that by getting the bird into a larger space, perhaps it will have the opportunity to move around more and exhibit normal behaviors and posture. The eagle will be acclimated to an outdoor pen for the next few days; the staff will move the bird outside during the day and inside at night until the oral chelation therapy is complete.

February 3, 2020

In the week following his admission, Bald Eagle #20-0055 made some slight improvements after receiving his first round of chelation therapy and intravenous fluids. On January 31, the eagle was bright and hydrated enough to discontinue the IV fluids, though the veterinarians also noted a significant right-sided head tilt which persists.

The eagle will have another lead test on February 4, which will determine if a second round of chelation therapy is needed. The eagle is intermittently eating on his own, though some days requires hand-feeding a portion of his meal.