Page County Golden Eagle

PATIENT: Golden Eagle, #12-0095

LOCATION OF RESCUE:  Page County, Virginia

INJURY:  Fractured radius

ADMISSION DATE:  February 23, 2012

OUTCOME: Released Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On February 23, biologists with the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group were working in Page County.  DGIF biologists were trapping Golden Eagles so that they could be banded and fitted with GPS transmitters, as a part of an ongoing study.

As biologists trapped one Golden Eagle, the trapping equipment malfunctioned.  The bird had no apparent injuries, though after the banding and transmitter fitting was complete, the bird ran – rather than flew – into a briar patch.  The eagle sustained some cuts and injuries to its wing, so the biologists immediately brought the bird to the Wildlife Center.

Upon admission, the fourth-year Golden Eagle was bright and alert.  Dr. Miranda Sadar anesthetized the bird for a complete examination and set of radiographs.  In addition to the soft-tissue wound from the briar patch, Dr. Miranda found that the eagle had sustained a fracture of the radius in its left wing.  Several secondary feathers were also missing.

Dr. Miranda and team got to work flushing and suturing the skin wound on the bird’s left wing.  After the wound was cleaned, doses of anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and pain medication were administered.  Dr. Miranda scheduled the eagle for surgery on February 24 to pin the fractured radius.

February 24 update

Surgery was successful for Golden Eagle #12-0095; Dr. Miranda is pleased with the pin placement and how the Golden Eagle did over the course of the 40-minute procedure.  The most critical time is the 48 hours following surgery; the eagle will be monitored closely.  Dr. Miranda placed a body wrap around the eagle to ensure that it will not be able to move its newly-pinned wing.

Waking up, post-surgery:

February 27 update

Golden Eagle #12-0095 did well throughout the weekend.  The eagle is bright and alert, though not yet eating on its own.  The veterinary team reports that there is a fair amount of bruising on the bird's injured wing, though the pin sites around the surgical site look good.  The Golden Eagle continues to receive pain medication, anti-inflammatories, and antibiotics.  The eagle will also receive laser therapy treatment every other day.

Dr. Adam took measurements of the Golden Eagle to see if its gender could be determined; based on his findings, it appears as though this Golden Eagle is a male.  

March 1 update

The Golden Eagle gave the vet staff a scare on the afternoon of February 29; when the staff checked on the bird in the afternoon, the eagle looked depressed -- he was hanging his head and was no longer perched.  The team examined the bird and provided additional pain medications and antibiotics, along with fluids.  The eagle did not appear to be in respiratory distress, so the team did not feel that the eagle had to be placed in an oxygen chamber.  

On the morning of March 1, the Golden Eagle appeared to be brighter and was once again perching in its crate.  The team will continue closely monitoring the bird.  The eagle is still being hand-fed by the staff.

March 5 update

Golden Eagle #12-0095 continues to be bright and alert.  The eagle even started eating on its own over the weekend -- the rehab staff have been "jump starting" the eagle by hand-feeding it a couple of pieces of food; this seems to get the bird started on eating the chopped rat on its own.  Dr. Adam reports that the eagle's pin sites look good, and the bruising and swelling over the fracture site is also improving.

The Golden Eagle will receive an additional set of radiographs and blood work on Thursday, March 8.

March 8 update

On March 6, as the Golden Eagle was caught up for daily treatments, the bird somehow managed to talon himself on his injured wing.  The self-inflicted puncture wounds broke open the nicely-healing scab on the eagle's left wing.  Dr. Miranda anesthetized the bird so that the wound could be carefully cleaned; Dr. Miranda thinks this is just a minor setback in the bird's recovery. 

While the bird was under anesthesia, Dr. Miranda decided to go ahead and take another set of radiographs.  These radiographs showed that the fractured radius was healing well, with a good alignment.  Since the injury was stable, Dr. Miranda pulled the pin that was stabilizing the radius. 

An additional set of radiographs will be taken on March 13.  If things continue to progress and heal well, the Golden Eagle may be able to be moved outside next week.

The veterinary staff also determined that the bird also had a yeast infection in its mouth -- likely due to the antibiotics that he is receiving.  A course of anti-fungals has been started.

Radiographs, taken before pin was pulled:

March 19 update

Golden Eagle #12-0095 was anesthetized on March 12 for another set of radiographs.  The films showed a callous over the fractured portion of the wing -- though additional healing needs to take place before the eagle is moved to a larger enclosure.  Another set of radiographs will be taken on March 26.

The Golden Eagle also had additional blood work last week -- results were concerning to the veterinary staff.  The eagle has a highly elevated white blood cell count.  Additional antibiotics were started.  The Golden Eagle was moved to "metal cages" on March 16 to see if a quieter, less stressful environment will benefit the eagle.

On March 19, additional blood was drawn for an aspergillus panel [to test for a fungal infection that causes respiratory disease in birds].  This sample will be sent to an outside laboratory; veterinarians expect that it will take about a week to get results.  Dr. Miranda also used the Center's endoscope to look for yeast in the eagle's esophagus and crop.  At this point, it appears as though the plaques of yeast are just localized in the eagle's mouth; no yeast was visualized in the crop.  The eagle's trachea also appears to be clean.

March 23 update

The Golden Eagle was brought into the hospital and anesthetized on March 22 for a wound cleaning and bandage change; Dr. Miranda is pleased with how the eagle's wound is healing.  Blood was drawn for a complete blood count -- while the white blood cell count is still high, there are marked improvements from last week's blood work.  Dr. Miranda also reports that the yeast plaques on the inside of the Golden Eagle's mouth have healed.

The rehabilitation staff report that the eagle is eating on its own again too -- a diet of chopped rat, twice a day.

Dr. Miranda changes the bandage on Golden Eagle #12-0095's wing:

March 27 update

The Golden Eagle had another set of radiographs taken on March 26; Dr. Miranda reports that the fractured radius is healing well.  The eagle's wing wound is also healing well -- while the veterinary team still needs to stay on top of bandage changes and wound cleanings, Dr. Miranda feels comfortable now moving these checks to every other day, which means less handling.  The bird remains bright, alert and feisty and is also continuing to eat well on its own.

April 3 update

On April 2, the Golden Eagle was anesthetized so that Dr. Miranda could closely inspect the bird's wing wound and clean the affected area.   Dr. Miranda reports that the Golden Eagle's wing wound is healing well --  to assist it with further healing, Dr. Miranda made two small sutures in the bird's wing to encourage the wound to completely close.  The staff will continue to check the eagle's bandage every other day, and another bandage change and wound inspection will occur on April 9.

April 10 update

Dr. Miranda anesthetized the Golden Eagle for a bandage change today -- she was pleased to see that the eagle's wound continues to heal -- the tissue surrounding the injured area is pink and healthy.  The wound has decreased to a size of about one by three centimeters.  Dr. Miranda flushed the wound carefully and re-bandaged the Golden Eagle's wing.  Bandage checks will be performed every other day for another week -- and then Dr. Miranda will assess the injury again on April 16.  Additional blood work will be taken on April 12. 

The Golden Eagle continues to eat well and is maintaining weight.

April 17 update

On April 16, Golden Eagle #12-0095 was anesthetized for another wound cleaning and bandage change.  Dr. Miranda is once again pleased with the healing process -- the wound over the eagle's wing continues to shrink and is looking healthy.  While the eagle was under anesthesia, Dr. Miranda performed physical therapy on the eagle's wing -- she estimates that at this point, the eagle has about 85% range of motion in that injured wing.

Dr. Miranda hopes that after another week of bandaging and healing, the Golden Eagle will be able to move into a larger space during the week of April 23.   

April 26 update

Golden Eagle #12-0095 was anesthetized on April 24 for another wound cleaning, bandage change, and injury assessment.  Dr. Miranda was pleased to see that the eagle's wing wound continues to heal -- while this has been a slow process, progress is noted every week.  There is still a small open area on the eagle's wing -- but with a protective covering placed over it, Dr. Miranda felt comfortable moving this bird to a C-pen -- a larger outdoor enclosure -- on April 25.

May 7 update

Golden Eagle #12-0095 continues to do well in an outdoor enclosure; the veterinary staff plan on moving the eagle into a larger flight pen towards the end of the week.   The Golden Eagle is eating well and maintaining a weight of about 4.2 kgs.

May 15 update

Golden Eagle #12-0095 was moved to a large flight pen [A1]on May 14.  Rehabilitator Suzy reports that the eagle is able to fly, though is maintaining low flights when flying from one end of the pen to the other.  The bird is able to perch on the short A-frame perches in the enclosure, and from there, can make a short flight to the swinging perches.  The staff aren't overly concerned at this point, since this eagle had such a long recovery period. 

The staff will continue to monitor the eagle over the next few days.  If the bird shows signs of improvements as it builds its flight muscles again, the staff may start exercise next week.

May 24 update

The rehab staff have been seeing a marked improvement in Golden Eagle #12-0095's flight -- over the past week, the eagle has gradually increased the number of flights during each exercise session.  On average, the eagle is flying about 8-10 lengths of the pen, and typically is able to fly from perch to perch.  The staff would like to see the eagle's stamina continue to improve, but they are encouraged by what they are seeing so far.

May 28 update

With some much-needed eagle shuffling, Golden Eagle #12-0095 was moved to flight pen A3 today.  Because the Golden Eagle is still working on improving its flight and conditioning, and can't yet maintain a good altitude when flying, the staff decided that A3 would be a safe option for the time being.

Unlike the slatted, wooden roof of flight pens A1 and A2, the roof of A3 is vinyl-coated welded wire.  This wire decreases the escape-risk for smaller raptors, such as hawks and falcons.  Unfortunately, several of the past patients in A3 –typically the well-flighted, recovering adult raptors — have been either hanging from or hitting their heads on the vinyl-coated welded wire.

After seeing some issues with past patients, the staff have decided that the roof must be replaced — for the safety of the birds.  During the week of June 4, a Kjellstrom & Lee construction team [led by Aric] will begin the modifications of the roof.  The Golden Eagle will remain in flight pen A3 for the next week -- if its altitude does improve and the ceiling becomes an issue, the bird will be moved to a different flight pen.

June 1 update

Dr. Dave and the rehab staff report that the Golden Eagle is flying very well in A3 -- on May 31, the Golden Eagle had two separate exercise sessions where it flew 12 times from perch to perch!  Since its flight is improving, and flight pen space will soon be at a premium at the Wildlife Center -- the staff hope that this bird will soon be able to be released.

June 5 update

With several additional exercise sessions, the Golden Eagle has been cleared for release.  Release plans are still tentative, though it looks as though this eagle will be released on Wednesday, June 6.  The release location will be somewhere in the Shenandoah Valley -- reasonably close to the Wildlife Center.  The Center plans to make this release open to the public -- please check for additional release details here, as we know them!

June 6 update

The Golden Eagle was released today at an overlook at Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County, Virginia.  A crowd of about 50 people attended this spectacular release.  Read more about it -- and see photos and videos -- here!

Your special donation will help the Center to provide state-of-the-art medical care to this Golden Eagle … and to the 2,500 sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals the Center will treat this year.  Please help!