Wildlife Center of Virginia Schedules Surgery for Norfolk Bald Eagle for Saturday, July 12

July 7, 2008

Acclaimed Veterinary Surgeon R. Avery Bennett to Join Center Team for Surgery

The Wildlife Center of Virginia, a renowned teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine located in Waynesboro, has scheduled surgery for Patient #08-887 - a baby Bald Eagle hatched at the Norfolk Botanical Garden that has created a worldwide following through its on-line appearances on "Eagle Cam". The surgery will take place on Saturday, July 12 at the Wildlife Center.

The Bald Eagle, hatched in late April 2008, was admitted to the Wildlife Center on May 22 with a golf-ball-sized mass on the left side of its beak. A biopsy confirmed that the eagle had a severe case of Avian Pox. The bird has been treated with antibiotics, antifungal drugs, pain medication, and interferon. While the mass is now shrinking, it has caused a malformation of the eaglet's developing beak and is inside the bird's skull.

The Wildlife Center surgical team will work to remove the remaining pox lesion. In addition, the medical team will address the present curvature in the eaglet's beak. Surgically manipulating beak growth is rare in raptor medicine.

Participating in the surgery will be Dr. R. Avery Bennett, Professor of Veterinary Clinical Medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an acclaimed board-certified veterinary surgeon. Dr. Bennett is known internationally as the "go-to guy" for complicated avian surgical cases.

Dr. Bennett will join the Wildlife Center's in-house team of veterinarians, led by Dr. Dave McRuer, the Center's Director of Veterinary Medicine who has overseen the eaglet's care since its admission. Joining Dr. McRuer will be Drs. Elizabeth Daut and Natalie Hall from the Wildlife Center.

"Surgery is a routine event at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, even surgery on Bald Eagles," said Ed Clark, the Center's President and Co-Founder. "But this is a very challenging case. In charting the best course of action, we consulted the top avian experts nationwide and, given the complexity of the case, all said that Dr. Bennett would be the most qualified and experienced avian surgeon to bring in. We're delighted that he is willing to lend his skilled hands.

"This continues to be a difficult and delicate case," Clark continued. "Until we determine how much damage has been done to the underlying bone, we cannot predict the bird's ultimate chances of making a full recovery. Our first and foremost concern continues to be the welfare and well-being of the eaglet."

Since admission, the eaglet has more than tripled in size - growing from 1.20 kg [2.25 pounds] on May 22 to 3.5 kg [7.7 pounds] on July 6. He has been fed mice, rats, and occasional fish; because of the mass on the bird's beak, he has been hand-fed. Because Avian Pox may be spread to other eagles [there are currently six other Bald Eagles being treated at the Center], the Norfolk eaglet has been kept in the Center's isolation suite.

Additional information about the treatment provided to the eaglet during its six-week stay at the Wildlife Center, including a log of medical updates, a weight chart, and an insider's look at care and feeding of the eagle is available at a special section of the Wildlife Center's website.

Every year, about 2500 animals - ranging from Bald Eagles to chipmunks - are brought to the Wildlife Center for care. 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 patients, 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.

During 2007, the Center marked its 25th anniversary and received the National Wildlife Federation's prestigious National Conservation Achievement Award for exemplary leadership in conserving wildlife and connecting people with nature. Additional information about the Wildlife Center is available at www.wildlifecenter.org.