Bald Eagle #21-0014 [ND]

January 8, 2021
Rescue Location
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Eagle fight; lead toxicity
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On January 7, two adult Bald Eagles were found down in a field in Virginia Beach. The birds had their talons locked together, and did not fly away when approached; the birds were able to be captured and taken to a permitted wildlife rehabilitator. One of the eagles was banded and is a well-known eagle in the community; ND hatched at the Norfolk Botanical Garden in 2010, and is the younger brother to Buddy, the Wildlife Center of Virginia’s Bald Eagle. Both birds were transported to the Wildlife Center of Virginia the following morning.

ND was admitted as patient #21-0014. The veterinary team found that ND had significant internal trauma, with numerous deep puncture wounds on his body, including around his head and neck. Blood work revealed that ND also has lead toxicity, at a level of 0.38 ppm. Dr. Karra notes that the bird is feisty, but was not the winner of the eagle fight and seems to have suffered the brunt of the injury. Prognosis is guarded due to the internal trauma combined with lead toxicity.

The eagle’s wounds were cleaned and treated, and the bird started a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, along with chelation therapy to remove the lead from his blood.

The Wildlife Center has treated three of ND’s offspring since 2016, including #16-1664, #18-1139, and #20-0918 [RU].

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

Patient Updates

The veterinary team were deeply saddened to find that Bald Eagle ND died on Sunday, March 14. The team found the eagle deceased in his enclosure in the Center’s holding room.

At this time, the staff are unsure of the exact reason for ND’s passing. While the staff were initially hopeful that ND would recover, an infection in his right foot, which was likely brewing but undetectable at admission, became a significant problem. The injury was difficult to manage, though the veterinary team felt that the injury and infection were well under control last week.

The Wildlife Center staff are saddened with this outcome. At this point, the veterinarians suspect that the eagle’s chronic infection and chronic stress of treatment and multiple surgeries contributed to the eagle’s death.

Bald Eagle ND’s foot wound has been challenging for the veterinary team to manage. On March 3, Dr. Karra took the eagle back to surgery to carefully debride the injured area. Dr. Karra was able to remove a lot of affected tissue, then flushed the wound clean and placed three antibiotic beads in the wound before suturing it closed. Radiographs taken on March 4 to check for bone infection indicated a mild amount of osteolysis [affected bone tissue], though the veterinary team is not concerned at this point.

On March 8, the team noted that there was discharge coming from ND’s foot wound; they were able to open a tiny area of the wound so that a daily flush is able to clean and drain the affected area. ND’s foot is carefully bandaged each day.

Fortunately, on March 8, the veterinary team noted that the eagle’s mouth laceration had finally fully healed.

The veterinary team continues to manage and treat Bald Eagle ND’s foot wound. Each day, the veterinarians check the wound and flush it clean; the injury has been difficult to treat and is healing slowly. On February 23, the veterinary team debrided the wound, during which they removed old, damaged tissue around the laceration. Antibiotic beads were placed in the wound before it was sutured closed; the veterinarians are considering another surgical debridement this week.

ND remains bright and alert and is eating well.

The veterinary team has been monitoring and treating Bald Eagle ND’s foot wound every day during the past week. Each day, the veterinarians clean the wound and carefully re-bandage the eagle’s foot, while monitoring for any signs of a worsening infection. There is a small amount of discharge around the eagle’s wound; the veterinarians took a sample of the discharge on February 16 so that it can be cultured at an outside laboratory to determine the best antibiotic to treat the infection.

ND continues to eat well and is bright and alert.

On February 4, the veterinary team moved Bald Eagle ND to a small outdoor enclosure. The eagle ate well throughout the weekend and appeared to be moving normally around the limited space.

When the veterinary team caught ND on Monday, February 9 to check on the eagle’s injuries and wounds, they discovered a large, infected abscess on the top of the bird’s foot. It’s unclear what caused this wound, though due to the linear, elongated shape, it’s possible that ND’s band may have played a role in the injury. The veterinary team is unsure what may have happened to create the abscess.

The staff brought the bird back into the Center’s hospital for immediate treatment, including thorough flushing of the wound and an intravenous line to deliver antibiotics to the eagle. ND remains bright and alert during this treatment, though the staff is concerned about the severity of the infection.

On February 1, Bald Eagle ND had another blood sample drawn for a lead analysis — this time, after three rounds of chelation therapy, the results came back "low", indicating that treatment had finally removed lead from the bird’s system. The veterinary team have also been keeping a close eye on ND’s extensive mouth wound; it appears to be healing very well after the antibiotic beads were surgically implanted.

As long as ND continues to do well this week, he’ll be moved to a small outdoor enclosure on February 5. The staff will continue to monitor ND during that time to ensure he’s eating well and moving around the outdoor space normally.

Bald Eagle ND continues to recover in the Center’s holding room, though is also continuing to battle lead poisoning. On January 20, the veterinary team drew blood from the bird and ran another lead analysis; results came back at 0.03 ppm. This was a reduced level of lead in the bird’s body from the sample that was run the week before, though the veterinary staff decided to provide another five-day course of oral chelation therapy.

On January 26, another blood sample was taken for an additional lead test; this time results came back at 0.047 ppm. It’s not uncommon for lead levels to rise over time; birds store lead in their bones, which may again leach out into the bloodstream. Once again, the veterinary team started a five-day course of oral chelation therapy.

Most of ND’s lacerations are healing quite well, though the one in the bird’s mouth is still problematic.  On the afternoon of January 27, Drs. Karra and Cam anesthetized ND so that they could more carefully clean and debride the necrotic wound. Dr. Karra noted that there was a deep pocket around the wound extending about two centimeters in length; Dr. Cam was able to clean the area and place two antibiotic beads into the wound before suturing it closed. This should promote healing in the coming week, though ND’s prognosis is still guarded due to the severity and worsening condition of the wound.

Bald Eagle #21-0014 [ND] has been healing slowly in the Center’s holding room. On January 14, ND had another lead analysis run; results came back at a reduced level from ND’s initial reading, indicating that while the first course of chelation therapy helped, ND still had lead in his system. The veterinary team started a second course of chelation therapy the following day. Another lead recheck will be performed on January 20.

The veterinary team has also been carefully managing the injured eagle’s deep puncture wounds and lacerations. On January 15, ND was anesthetized while Dr. Sarah carefully cleaned, debrided, and sutured several wounds closed, including lacerations on the eagle’s body and on the side of the eagle’s mouth. The surgery went well.

Bald Eagle ND has been stable in the first few days following his admission and treatment. While it will likely take some time for the many serious puncture wounds and lacerations to heal, the veterinary team is encouraged that the eagle’s wounds are clean and starting to heal, particularly around the bird’s face and neck.  The eagle will finish his first course of chelation therapy on January 13; another lead test will be run the following day.

Given the internal trauma that the eagle suffered, along with the significant lead level [that can cause long-term effects], ND’s prognosis is still guarded.