On May 14, a hatch-year Bald Eaglet was rescued by an animal control officer in King George County. A private citizen suspected the young bird fell out of its nest the week before; the eaglet was seen on the ground for about a week before it was rescued. The bird was taken to a nearby permitted wildlife rehabilitator, who found that the bird had a fractured left wing. The eaglet was transported to the Wildlife Center of Virginia that same evening.
Dr. Meghan Feeney, the Center’s veterinary intern, examined the eaglet when it arrived. She found the bird to be thin, and noted that the bird had an open fracture of its left wing, with the radius exposed. Open fractures can be very difficult to treat, particularly if the bone has been exposed for any significant length of time. In this bird’s case, the bone did not appear to be necrotic, indicating that it likely wasn’t exposed to the air for a significant amount of time. Dr. Meghan took radiographs of the eaglet’s wing, and found that both the ulna and radius were fractured and displaced. Blood work revealed that the eagle was anemic.
Dr. Meghan flushed the wound and splinted and bandaged the eaglet’s wing. The following morning, she took the eaglet to surgery to insert a pin into each fractured wing bone. Approximately one to two millimeters had to be shaved off of each end of the exposed, fractured radius, to “freshen” the bone and promote healing.
Surgery went well, and the eagle recovered successfully in the Center’s holding room. In the days following surgery, the eaglet appeared to be quiet and weak, and did not eat on its own. Radiographs were taken on May 22, one week after surgery, on which Dr. Meghan noted an area of irregularity on the end of the bird’s radius [closest to the humerus]. At this point in the eagle’s life, its bones are growing and calcifying, which makes it difficult to interpret this anomaly in the bird’s bone. The eaglet may have damaged the growth plate of the radius in the fall, or the bone may continue to grow and may calcify normally. Additional radiographs will be taken on May 29.
The staff continues to hand-feed the eaglet each day, though the eaglet has not gained weight. The bird’s prognosis remains very guarded.
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