Bald Eagle #13-0174

March 9, 2013
April 25, 2013
Rescue Location
Eastern Shore, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Lead toxicity
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On Saturday, March 9, an immature Bald Eagle from Virginia’s Eastern Shore was brought to the Wildlife Center. The volunteer transporter also brought four dead eagles from the same rescue site.

The unusual circumstances surrounding this eagle’s rescue are being investigated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Law Enforcement. The Center collected evidence and is cooperating with the authorities in this investigation.

The immature Bald Eagle, likely a male, was admitted as patient #13-0174. Dr. Dana Tedesco, the Center’s veterinary intern, examined the bird when it arrived. The eagle was quiet,  and while the bird was standing in its transport enclosure, its head was drooping. Dr. Dana performed a physical examination, radiographs, and initial blood work, which included a lead test. The results came back at 0.27 ppm – an elevated, but not yet critical level of lead, but one that warranted treatment. Chelation therapy was started.

On radiographs, Dr. Dana was able to see multiple metal fragments in the bird’s digestive tract. To avoid a continued leaching of the lead into the eagle’s bloodstream, Dr. Dana formulated a “Metamucil slurry” tube-feeding plan so that the metal fragments will quickly move through the eagle’s system.

Since beginning treatment, the eagle has been a little brighter and more alert. Additional radiographs will be taken on March 12 to check on the status of the fragments. An additional lead test will be performed on March 13.

Eagle Rescue in the News

"Four Dead Bald Eagles are Found in Northampton County,"

"Four Dead Eagles Found Dead on Eastern Shore," WAVY-TV

"Reports: Four Dead Eagles Found on Eastern Shore, One Treated for Lead," WTKR-TV

"Four Eagles Dead on Eastern Shore," WTKR-TV

"Eagle Deaths on VA’s Eastern Shore Investigated," NBC12-TV

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

Post-release postscript: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that the deaths of the four other eagles were caused by carbofuran pesticide poisoning. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has an open investigation of the case and is still seeking information. 

Patient Updates

The release of Bald Eagle #13-0174 at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge today went beautifully. A crowd of about 150 people were present as Dr. Dave released the eagle into a large field. When tossed into the air, the eagle quickly banked away from the crowd, and soared higher and higher, until it was out of sight.

Bald Eagle #13-0174 Release

Eagle Release In the News

Additional Release Photos

Property of Holly Smith:

The rehabilitation staff report that Bald Eagle #13-0174 has been flying very well throughout the past week. They are pleased with his current level of conditioning, so on Monday, April 22, the veterinary team drew pre-release blood work. After the diagnostic team analyzed and report the results, Dr. Rich cleared the eagle for release. Dr. Dave will band the eagle with both federal and state leg bands on Wednesday, April 24.

The Bald Eagle will be released on Thursday, April 25 at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Dr. Dave will be present for the 2:00 p.m. release, which is open to the public. If you will be attending the release, please email The release will take place at Ashville Bridge Creek Environmental Education Center at 3022 New Bridge Road.

The rehabilitation staff began exercising Bald Eagle #13-0174 on April 15. Amber reports that during the first session, the Bald Eagle flew quite well – the bird was able to fly ten laps perch-to-perch. Exercise and monitoring will continue this week.

Bald Eagle #13-0174 was moved to flight pen A1 on the morning of April 11. Housing the eagle by itself will allow the rehabilitation staff to begin exercising the eagle on the weekend of April 13.

Bald Eagle #13-0174 has been eating well during the past two weeks. Critter Cam viewers have likely noticed the colorful “bumpers” that offer protection to the eagle’s carpi [wrists]; the carpal bumpers are a routine preventative measure that the Wildlife Center veterinary team take to ensure that the eagles do not injure themselves when flying in the large flight pen.

Within the last week, Bald Eagle #13-0174 managed to remove one of the bumpers – and did have a small wound on its right carpus when the veterinary team caught the eagle for a routine foot and feather check on April 8. Dr. Rich cleaned the carpus and reapplied the protective bumpers.

As soon as Turkey Vulture #13-0166 is released, the Bald Eagle will be moved into flight pen A1 so that it may be exercised and conditioned for release.

Bald Eagle #13-0174 has been eating well this week. The rehab staff report that the eagle has been eating a whole rat each day. The bird currently weighs in at 3.48 kgs – a higher weight than when it was first admitted.

On March 20, the Bald Eagle had additional blood work performed, which revealed a mildly elevated liver value. This could be caused by heavy metal toxicity [for example, lead], pesticide poisoning, or a different toxin; it could also be the result of an infection or virus. There are many variables, but because the eagle is stable and now eating well, the bird will simply be monitored. Additional blood work will be performed on April 3.

Because the eagle’s appetite is much improved, the veterinary team decided to move the bird back into a larger space for additional monitoring. The eagle was moved to flight pen A2 on March 27 – to share a space with Bald Eagle #11-0230. Watch for the two eagles on Critter Cam!

Since mid-March, the eagle has shown little interest in eating food on its own, and the veterinary staff hand-fed the bird for several days.

For two days in a row – March 23 and 24 – rehabilitation staff noted that Bald Eagle #13-0174 ate nearly all of its meal, and hand-feeding was not required. On March 25, the eagle had once again not eaten its meal; it is possible that the bird was deterred from eating due to the snowfall on the night of March 24.

Because the bird has gained weight, the veterinary staff feel that hand-feeding is not necessary at this point. If the bird fails to eat on its own or loses weight, the veterinary staff will resume hand-feeding.

Bald Eagle #13-0174 has been inconsistently eating over the past several days. To ensure the eagle receives proper sustenance, the vet staff will hand-feed the bird on the days it does not eat on its own.

On March 18, the eagle was moved to a smaller C-pen until the bird begins to eat on its own; in a smaller flight pen, the staff can more easily catch the eagle for hand-feeding.

Follow-up blood work is scheduled for March 20.

Bald Eagle #13-0174 appears to be doing well in A3, the Center’s largest flight pen. The bird is able to fly to the high perches in the enclosure. The staff will continue to monitor the quality of the bird’s flight, appetite, and endurance after prolonged flight. Tune in to the Center’s Critter Cam to observe this bird in action!

Dr. Rich, the Center’s veterinary fellow, took an additional set of radiographs of Bald Eagle #13-0174 on March 12. Dr. Rich reports that it appears as though all metal has moved through the eagle’s system in the past few days. The eagle remains bright and alert.

An additional lead test was performed this morning; the results were 0.178 ppm, indicating that chelation therapy was effective. The eagle will be moved to flight pen A3 after the afternoon treatments today.