On September 27, King George County Animal Control responded to a call from an anonymous number regarding a Bald Eagle that had been hit by a car. An animal control officer contained the injured bird and brought it to permitted wildlife rehabilitator Deb Woodward; Deb provided supportive care for the eagle and arranged transport to the Wildlife Center of Virginia the following day.
Dr. Emma, a veterinary intern at the Center, performed the intake exam. On admission, the eagle was bright, alert, responsive, and feisty but was mildly dehydrated and thin with a body condition score of 1.5/5. A fracture of the right ulna [a bone in the wing] was palpated and confirmed by radiographs, as well as soft tissue swelling and mild inflammation of the right patagium. The eagle also had a left corneal ulcer and bruising on its left eyelid. A blood lead test revealed a lead level of 0.035 ppm; while this amount of lead is considered “subclinical”, no level of lead is safe to have in the body.
Dr. Emma and her team applied a bandage to the eagle's right wing and administered fluids to combat dehydration. She started the eagle on a course of anti-inflammatories and pain medication to relieve swelling and reduce pain. Dr. Emma also administered antibiotic eye drops in the bird's left eye to treat a suspected bacterial infection and started chelation therapy to remove the lead from the eagle's system.
During the next week, the veterinary team noted that the eagle developed a wound over the right shoulder that was inflamed and surrounded by dead tissue. On October 10, they anesthetized the eagle and performed surgery to remove dead tissue and close the wound. The eagle recovered from anesthesia uneventfully and the veterinary team applied a specialized bandage on the wound to aid in the healing process.
On October 20, the veterinary team found a hematoma [severe bruise] over the fracture site of the right ulna. A bandage was placed over the wound, but over the next few days, they noted that there was necrotic tissue surrounding the hematoma and determined that it would need to be debrided and closed. On October 23, the veterinary team anesthetized the eagle, debrided the wound, and placed a specialized bandage over it.
In addition to medication, the eagle is currently receiving daily physical therapy and laser therapy to improve healing and range of motion in its right wing. During physical therapy, the right wing is able to achieve a full range of motion, although significant resistance is present at the beginning of the session. Chelation therapy successfully removed the lead from the bird's system.
The eagle is currently housed in Hold, one of the Center’s indoor holding areas. The veterinary team plans to move this patient to Metals, one of the Center’s outdoor holding areas, in the coming weeks. For now, it will remain inside and continue to receive daily checks, wound cleanings, and bandage changes.