Bald Eagle #14-1955 [NC99]

August 20, 2014
December 23, 2014
Rescue Location
Pendleton County, West Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Hit by vehicle
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On August 20, a young, male Bald Eagle was hit by a vehicle in Pendleton County, West Virginia. The eagle’s rescuer found the bird on the side of the road and called the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. The eagle was transported to the Wildlife Center of Virginia later that day.

Dr. Helen Ingraham examined the Bald Eagle when it arrived. The young bird was in good condition and had no fractures – but Dr. Helen found severe ocular trauma in both eyes. The eagle’s left eye appeared to be more damaged than the right, but both eyes had retinal tears, likely from the impact of the eagle’s collision with a vehicle. The eagle was given fluids, anti-inflammatories, and pain medication. Another eye examination was scheduled for seven days post-admission. Dr. Helen knew that the eagle’s prognosis for release was guarded to poor with such extensive eye injuries.

The eye re-check on August 27 revealed that while some of the retinal tears were healing, significant damage was still present, likely making the bird non-releasable. The eagle was moved to an outdoor C-pen. The Center staff started to look for placement options for the eagle.

On September 12, the eagle was moved to flight pen A2 — a larger space where the eagle could comfortably stay during the placement and permitting process. Several days after the eagle moved into the flight pen, the staff noted that the eagle was flying quite well – better than a visually compromised eagle would likely fly.

On September 22, a follow-up eye examination was performed – and all three veterinarians were quite surprised to find no sign of retinal tears! The injuries to the eagle’s left eye were resolved; the right eye retained some mild pigment changes, but the fovea – the portions of the bird’s eyes critical for visual acuity – were healthy.

The eagle will soon be moved to a large flight pen by itself for flight conditioning and observation. An additional eye examination has been scheduled for late October. At this point, it appears as though the bird will be releasable.

Your special donation will help the Center to provide care to this young eagle … and to the 2,500 sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals the Center will treat this year. Please help!

Patient Updates

Bald Eagle #14-1955 was successfully released today at Natural Chimneys Park in Mt. Solon, Virginia. A crowd of about 200 people attended the release. President Ed Clark greeted the release attendees and shared some information about the Wildlife Center, Bald Eagles, and this particular eagle’s rehabilitation story. Ed tossed the bird into the air, and the eagle flew around a bend and out of sight.

Stay tuned to the Wildlife Center’s Eagle Tracking page to follow the post-release movements of this eagle, and click here to read some frequently asked questions about the GPS transmitter that the eagle is wearing.

Bald Eagle #14-1955 Release

Eagle Release in the News

Wildlife Center Releases Rehabilitated Eagle, WVIR-TV

Bald Eagle Released at Natural Chimneys, The News Leader

Bald Eagle’s Recovery, Release Defies Odds, The Daily News Record

Bald Eagle #14-1955 has been cleared for release! Wildlife Center President Ed Clark will release the juvenile bird at Natural Chimneys Park in Mt. Solon, Virginia on Tuesday, December 23 at 11:00 a.m. The release is open to the public; please RSVP to if you plan on attending.

Release attendees are asked to meet at the main parking area near the chimneys. The address of the park is: 94 Natural Chimneys Lane, Mt Solon, VA 22843; however, GPS directions are not always accurate. Please click here for detailed directions from Interstate 81 in Staunton.

On Thursday, December 18, DGIF biologist Jeff Cooper will come to the Center to fit Bald Eagle #14-1955 with a GPS transmitter. The eagle will also be banded and pre-release blood work will be drawn for analysis.

If blood work is within normal limits, and the eagle continues to fly well the rest of this week, the bird will likely be released in the Shenandoah Valley next week [Christmas week].

Bald Eagle #14-1955 continues to do well in flight pen A1. The bird is flying and maneuvering well and the vet staff are hoping that this bird will soon be ready for release.

To study the post-release movements of the bird, the Wildlife Center will be purchasing a GPS transmitter for this eagle. This is the same model of transmitter that both Chincoteague eaglets are wearing. Proceeds from the sale of the 2015 Garden of Eagles calendar will be used to purchase this transmitter. The unit should arrive within the next few days, and Jeff Cooper, the state eagle biologist, will come to the Center during the week of December 15 to fit the transmitter on the bird.

Release plans are being made; details will be finalized once the transmitter is on the eagle.

On November 21, Drs. Dave, Helen, and Meghan transported Bald Eagle #14-1955 to Virginia Tech for an examination by board-certified ophthalmologist Dr. Phil Pickett. Dr. Pickett used both a direct and an indirect ophthalmoscope to visualize the eagle’s retina. He found that there was a small scar on the eagle’s left retina, in a part of the eye that has the highest density of rods and cones, which are responsible for visual acuity.

This type of permanent injury in a falcon or hawk would very likely make the patient non-releasable. However, because eagles are opportunistic feeders and often eat carrion, this small retinal injury doesn’t necessarily mean that the bird is non-releasable. The Wildlife Center staff have noted that this eagle is doing very well in captivity – there have been no issues with the quality of the bird’s flight and maneuverability. Dr. Pickett conferred with several other board-certified ophthalmologists with avian experience, and all agreed that the extent of the retinal lesions in the left eye should not prevent release.

The Wildlife Center staff is coordinating details of the eagle’s release for sometime later this month. Dr. Dave is inquiring about the possibility of attaching a transmitter to the eagle prior to release. It would be very beneficial for the Center staff to learn from post-release transmitter data, given this young eagle’s eye injury.

Bald Eagle #14-1955 has been flying very well during the past few weeks. Rehabilitation intern Jordan reports that the eagle flies an average of 19-20 times during each exercise session, and the bird has great stamina and height in the large A3 flight enclosure.

On Friday, November 21, Drs. Dave, Helen, and Meghan will take the Bald Eagle to Virginia Tech for an in-depth eye examination by board-certified ophthalmologist Dr. Phillip Pickett. The results of the eye examination will help determine if this young eagle will be able to be released soon.

On October 24, the rehabilitation staff moved Bald Eagle #14-0261 to flight pen A1 to be housed with Bald Eagle #14-1955. The staff hoped that a change of location would improve the eagle’s ability to fly.

Shortly after moving to the new enclosure, eagle #14-0261 began flying better, showing improved height and stamina.

The eagle has been exercised daily by Center staff and students. In the video below, rehabilitation intern Jordan Herring exercises both eagles [Bald Eagles #14-0261 and #14-1955].

Both eagles were moved to enclosure A3 on November 5. Once eagle #14-0261 is consistently flying well during daily exercise, the staff will consider plans for releasing the eagle.

Bald Eagle #14-1955 has been flying very well during the past two weeks of flight conditioning. The eagle typically flies 15-20 times the length of the flight enclosure and has good strength, stamina, and altitude.

On October 13, the eagle was moved to flight pen A1 and is currently being housed with Bald Eagle #14-2150. Both eagles will continue flight conditioning together over the coming weeks. Bald Eagle #14-1955 will be going to Virginia Tech for a complete eye examination in early November; if the bird receives a clean bill of health, it should be ready for release.

Bald Eagle #14-1955 has been flying well in flight pen A3 during the past week. The rehabilitation staff are exercising the bird daily, and the eagle is flying the length of the enclosure about eight to ten times consistently.

The veterinarians have discussed the eagle’s remarkable eye changes and have reached out to Dr. Phillip Pickett, a board-certified ophthalmologist at VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Pickett has examined several other Wildlife Center patients with more unusual eye injuries during the past few years. At some point in October, the veterinary team will take the eagle to Virginia Tech, and Dr. Pickett and team will evaluate the bird’s eyes. The team may ultrasound the eagle’s eyes to assess the integrity of the injured retina. Dr. Pickett will also look for any fluid pockets under the retina, which will indicate an ongoing detachment. This in-depth examination will determine if the eagle is releasable, as well as if the eagle should be held for a particular length of time for observation.

Until the appointment is scheduled, Bald Eagle #14-1955 will continue to live in one of the Center’s large flight pens and will be exercised daily.