Wildlife Center Releases Bald Eagle on April 29 at Caledon Natural Area

The Wildlife Center of Virginia, the nation’s leading teaching and research hospital for native wildlife, released a Bald Eagle on Wednesday, April 29 at 1:30 p.m. at the visitors center of the Caledon Natural Area in King George, Virginia. Participating in the release was Ed Clark, President and co-founder of the Wildlife Center.  

This eagle – an immature bird – was found on April 13 in the King George County Landfill, stuck in asphalt. The bird was rescued and transported to the Wildlife Center by Jeff Cooper, a wildlife biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Upon admission, the Center’s veterinary team found significant amounts of thick, tarry asphalt stuck on the bird’s feet and abdomen. The vet team worked quickly to remove as much asphalt as possible. Some feathers were trimmed; vegetable oil, and a significant amount of “elbow grease”, were used to remove asphalt from the feet.

The bird was brought back into the clinic on April 14. The veterinary team experimented with Goo Gone and another solvent but found that vegetable oil seemed to do the best job with this asphalt. The team also used Dawn detergent to remove oily residues from the bird’s feathers. The bird has been given fluids, pain medications, and anti-inflammatories.

The eagle tested positive and was treated for exposure to organophosphates [pesticides and other poisons], although negative for exposure to lead. On April 17, the eagle was moved outdoors, first to one of the Center’s smaller outdoor pens. On April 20, the eagle was moved to one of the Center’s largest exercise and rehabilitation flight-pens. Unfortunately, the eagle showed high stress levels in this enclosure, risking serious injury by flying into the pen’s walls. Even though the eagle is still missing some feathers, Center veterinarians made the determination that the bird’s chances of survival are greatest if it is released.  

Thus far in 2009, the Wildlife Center has treated 16 Bald Eagles.

It is estimated that the Bald Eagle population of North America numbered about half a million before European settlement. With the loss of habitat, hunting, and the effects of DDT and other pesticides, the U.S. eagle population plummeted. In 1977, for example, there were fewer than 50 Bald Eagle nests in Virginia.    

Today, the Bald Eagle population in Virginia is on the rebound. There are now more than 500 active Bald Eagle nests in the Commonwealth.    Every year, about 2,500 animals – ranging from Bald Eagles to chipmunks – are brought to the Wildlife Center for care. “The goal of the Center is to restore our patients to health and return as many as possible to the wild,” Clark said. “At the Wildlife Center, we treat to release.”     The Wildlife Center of Virginia is an internationally acclaimed teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine. Since its founding in 1982, the nonprofit Center has cared for more than 50,000 wild animals, representing 200 species of native birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. The Center’s public education programs share insights gained through the care of injured and orphaned wildlife, in hopes of reducing human damage to wildlife. The Center trains veterinary and conservation professionals from all over the world and is actively involved in comprehensive wildlife health studies and the surveillance of emerging diseases.  

The Caledon Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark, is the summer home for one of the largest concentrations of Bald Eagles on the East Coast. Caledon is a Virginia State Park operated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.