Bald Eagle #19-0129

March 3, 2019
Rescue Location
Northampton County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Right-wing fracture
Former Patient
Patient photo

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On the afternoon of March 2, a Northampton County resident reported seeing a juvenile Bald Eagle on the beach, laying on its back and unable to right itself, in the Savage Neck Dunes State Natural Area Preserve. After being located and rescued by a local permitted rehabilitator, the bird was transported to veterinary clinic in Yorktown, where the veterinary team diagnosed a humeral fracture in the eagle’s right wing. They bandaged the eagle’s right wing, and a volunteer transported the eagle to the Wildlife Center the next day for further care.

On admission, Bald Eagle #19-0129 was quiet, but responsive and feisty in its crate. A physical examination and radiographs confirmed a right humeral fracture, as well as several lacerations in the elbow region of the right wing. Based on the greenish bruising around the injury, the veterinary staff estimate the injury to be approximately one week old. The eagle was dehydrated but in good body condition with no other abnormalities observed. The veterinary staff cleaned and bandaged the wounds surrounding the fracture, applied a body wrap to immobilize the right wing, and administered fluids, pain medication and anti-inflammatories.

Blood work revealed a lead level of 0.241 ppm. While this level technically categorized as “subclinical” [does not require treatment], veterinary intern Dr. Karra suspects the eagle’s inability to right itself before being rescued may be a sign of neurologic symptoms associated with lead toxicity; the veterinary team started the eagle on a course of chelation therapy to gradually remove lead from the eagle’s bloodstream. Chelation treatment is also preventative in this case. Lead can be stored in bones, and as the fractured wing heals, lead may be redistributed into the bloodstream.

The eagle is currently housed in the Center’s indoor holding area. Sometime during the coming week, veterinary staff will attempt to surgically repair the humeral fracture, a particularly difficult procedure in this eagle’s case – the fracture is relatively close to the shoulder joint, and as Dr. Karra notes, “The fracture is thought to be close to a week old, and as a result the muscles are very contacted, making aligning the bones challenging.”

Based on the age of the fracture and the eagle’s likely history of lead toxicity, prognosis is guarded to poor.

Your donation will help provide care to this injured Bald Eagle — and the 3,000 other patients the Wildlife Center will treat this year. 

Patient Updates

During evening treatments on March 8, the veterinary team noted that Bald Eagle #19-0129 was lying down in its crate and was breathing heavily when handled for assessment. They placed the eagle in the oxygen chamber; when they checked on the bird later, the eagle was still lying down but its respiratory effort had improved. They left the bird in the oxygen chamber overnight to continue oxygen therapy.

Unfortunately, the following morning on March 9, Bald Eagle #19-0129 was found dead in its crate.

Findings from a necropsy included fluid in the lungs and a very pale area within the muscular wall of the heart. The area of pale muscle in the wall of the heart could indicate that the bird threw a blood clot in the heart – this can happen with animals that are suffering from systemic inflammation or sepsis – which caused acute heart failure and subsequently lead to fluid build-up in the lungs. This can happen very suddenly, which could explain why this bird appeared normal in the morning but was in distress by evening treatments.