Bald Eagle #20-0994

May 14, 2020
July 31, 2020
Rescue Location
Pittsylvania County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Lead poisoning
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On May 13, an adult Bald Eagle was found down in a field on a dead cow in Pittsylvania County. A DGIF Conservation Police Officer was able to contain the eagle, and took it to nearby Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke for initial treatment. The following day, the eagle was transported to the Wildlife Center.

Dr. Ernesto, the Center’s hospital director, examined the eagle when it arrived. The bird was bright, alert, and standing and generally was in good body condition. The physical examination and radiographs were within normal limits, but a blood lead test revealed that the bird had lead toxicosis at a level of 0.22 ppm. Dr. Ernesto began a course of both oral and injectable chelation therapy, which will essentially "scrub" the lead from the bird’s system. The bird was placed in the Center’s holding room for observation.

On May 18, Dr. Karra reported that the eagle was extremely feisty during treatments — an encouraging sign! The eagle will finish its course of chelation therapy on May 19 and will be tested again for lead later this week.

Your donation will help provide veterinary medical care to this Bald Eagle … and more than 3,000 other wildlife patients admitted this year. Thank you! 

Patient Updates

Bald Eagle #20-0994 was successfully released by Dr. Karra on July 31. The bird was returned to Pittsylvania County, where the eagle was first rescued in May 2020.

Despite shaky cell-phone reception, Dr. Karra was able to live-stream the event in two parts:

Eagle Release in the News: 

Bald eagle released back into the wild after recovering from lead poisoning, WSET/ABC-13

VDWR, Appalachian Power release bald eagle near Leesville Lake, The Altavista Journal

Bald Eagle #20-0994 has been flying well during daily exercise sessions during the past two weeks. The eagle recovered its stamina and is able to gain lift and maintain height during flight. The staff will schedule a pre-release examination and blood work analysis this week to determine if the eagle is ready to be released. If Dr. Karra determines that the eagle is ready, she will likely release the eagle on Friday, July 31. The release will not be open to the public due to public safety with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, though stay tuned to Facebook Live to participate in the release!

Bald Eagle #20-0994 began exercise on June 11 and has been flying an average of seven to 13 passes of the 100' long flight pen during each daily exercise session. The eagle’s stamina is improving, though the hot weather sometimes impacts the quality of the daily exercise session. The bird is able to gain lift and maintain height while in flight.

On May 30, Bald Eagle #20-0994 finished its course of oral chelation therapy for the subclinical level of lead toxicity in the bird’s system. The following day, the staff re-checked the lead levels and found a reduced level of 0.003 ppm — just a little above the "low" reading. The eagle has been eating well, and has indicated its preference for fish.

On June 2, the rehabilitation staff moved the eagle to flight pen A1, where it will share a space with Bald Eagle #20-0918 [RU].

After Bald Eagle #20-0994 finished its course of chelation therapy last week, a repeat lead text revealed a "low" blood lead level, and the bird was moved to a small outdoor enclosure. Because lead can also be stored in the bones of an affected animal, the team decided to monitor the eagle in the outdoor space and re-test its lead levels in several days. On May 25, a repeat lead test revealed a level of 0.066 ppm, indicating that while the chelation therapy may have helped remove the lead from the eagle’s blood, there was still lead in the bird’s system. Another course of chelation therapy will begin on May 26.