Bald Eagle #11-0207

March 28, 2011
May 4, 2011
Rescue Location
Gloucester County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Unable to fly
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated

Bald eagle

On Friday, March 25, a mature Bald Eagle was seen in Gloucester County, unable to fly. Conservation Police Officer Jeff McCuistion was able to catch the eagle the following day when it ran into a body of water. He took the bird to permitted rehabilitator Sarah Streetman. On Monday, March 28, transporter Chris Clendenin brought the eagle to the Wildlife Center. Upon admission, Dr. Kelly Flaminio found the large Bald Eagle to be bright and alert. The bird’s left humerus was bruised and swollen, though Dr. Kelly couldn’t palpate any fractures. There was also subcutaneous emphysema present over the bruised part of the humerus; this condition appears when air gets into the tissues under the skin. The eagle tested negative for lead. On March 29, radiographs were taken and a more thorough physical exam was performed while the bird was under anesthesia. No fractures were found, though there are two puncture wounds in the injured area of the bird’s left wing. These puncture wounds seem consistent with injuries from an altercation with another bird. The Bald Eagle also has a small brood patch present. The eagle is currently on anti-inflammatories and a course of antibiotics has also been started. The veterinary team will flush the two puncture wounds for the next few days and then will further assess treatment of the wounds.

April 4 update

Bald eagle

The veterinary team continued to treat this Bald Eagle’s injuries over the weekend. The bruising has nearly disappeared on the injured wing, and the subcutaneous emphysema has almost resolved. Dr. Miranda Sadar flushed the two puncture wounds on April 3. Since one of the wounds is still fairly large, she added a few sutures to close the wound and enable it to heal more quickly. The eagle is eating well. After a few more days of monitoring and treatment, the veterinary team hope to move this bird to an outdoor enclosure.

April 8 update

On April 7, the veterinary team declared that the puncture wounds on this Bald Eagle’s wing were closed and clean. The bird was moved outside into an intermediate-sized raptor enclosure for several days of observation. Yesterday afternoon, a veterinary student noticed that the eagle was drooping its injured wing. The vet staff will continue to monitor the bird daily. As long as the wing droop isn’t a recurring problem, the eagle should be moved to a flight pen sometime next week.

April 15 update

On April 11, Bald Eagle #11-0207 was moved into a larger flight pen so that the veterinary team could assess the use of the bird’s injured wing. The eagle has been continuing to intermittently droop her left wing. Once in a larger pen, it was clear to the vets that the eagle was not able to fully extend her left wing. When approached, many raptors raise both wings in a defensive posture before flying away. When this eagle attempts to raise her left wing, she’s unable to get full extension. The vets suspect that this Bald Eagle may have damaged nerves from her original injury. Further assessment is needed and the eagle will continue to be monitored in the flight pen over the next few days.

April 29 update

Continued observation of Bald Eagle #11-0207 supports the theory of nerve damage in one wing. One of the WCV’s fourth-year veterinary students did some additional research on nerve regeneration in other animals. Based on her findings, there is hope that the Bald Eagle will heal — the process just may take time. Using documentation of similar cases in other animals, calculations were made to determine exactly how long the healing process may take. Since nerves that are crushed may regenerate at a certain pace, the Bald Eagle’s wing was measured [630 mm] to make this calculation. It’s estimated that it could take as many as 196 days for full regeneration — though because the eagle has some use of its wing, it could be as short as 125 days. So far, the Bald Eagle has been at the WCV for 33 days. The good news is that the Bald Eagle is already showing some signs of improvement. This could be because the nerve damage isn’t as severe as originally suspected. It also could be due to the fact that many of the documented cases that were reviewed were on domestic mammals — and perhaps birds heal more quickly in this respect. Either way, the improvement is encouraging, though this bird still has a long way to go. Bald Eagle #11-207 will be moved into a larger enclosure this afternoon. In fact, she’ll be sharing one of the Center’s 100-foot long enclosures with the Norfolk Botanical Garden eaglets. This particular flight pen has been divided into two sections, so Bald Eagle #11-207 will not be interacting with the chicks. Instead, she will just be a visual role model for the three chicks and will provide them with an adult Bald Eagle to watch.

May 4 update

Frustrating news to share on Bald Eagle #11-0207: severe weather damaged the enclosure in which she was in and the eagle "self-released" today. It appears that the limb of a tree outside the enclosure damaged the special fabric used for the walls of the flight pen. According to Wildlife Center President Ed Clark, the incident is more frustrating than anything else. “With more than 50 outdoor enclosures, it just figures that the one damaged was the one holding a Bald Eagle. The bird was recovering from her wounds and was flying extremely well — too well, apparently. I guess she just had things to do.” We think that the bird may well return to her home territory in Gloucester.

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