Bald Eagle #21-0214

March 6, 2021
August 19, 2021
Rescue Location
Augusta County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Suspected vehicle collision; lead toxicity
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On the night of March 6, an Augusta County animal control officer found a young Bald Eagle injured on a road in Middle River, VA. He was able to capture the eagle and called the Wildlife Center’s after-hours phone line for assistance. Dr. Sarah, one of the Center’s veterinary interns, met the animal control officer at the Wildlife Center later that night to admit the eagle.

On admission, the eagle was standing in its crate and was quiet but alert and responsive. Dr. Sarah examined the eagle and found that it was slightly dehydrated and thin, and had two small puncture wounds on its left wing that were bleeding. No other obvious external injuries were found. Radiographs revealed that the clavicle in its right wing was fractured, and that it had a small pocket of air in its abdominal area. After examining the eagle, Dr. Sarah drew a blood sample that came back positive for 0.016ppm lead — a subclinical level that overtime can cause coordination issues and difficulty flying.

Dr. Sarah suspects that the eagle’s lead toxicity has been an ongoing issue, and predisposed it to being hit by a car, the likely cause of its injuries. She immediately administered fluids to correct its dehydration and anti-inflammatory medication to help its injuries heal, and started the eagle on chelation therapy to remove the lead from its system. After receiving treatment, the eagle was placed in one of the Center’s indoor holding areas to rest for the night.

The following day the Center’s veterinary staff discovered that the eagle also had a fracture in its right coracoid. In addition to its other treatments, the veterinary staff started the eagle on a course of pain medication and applied a body wrap to stabilize its fractures in order for them to heal correctly. They also applied an anti-septic to the puncture wounds on its left wing.

The eagle is currently being housed inside the Center where it can be easily monitored by the veterinary staff. They report that it has been bright and even feisty on some days, though its prognosis for recovery is guarded due to multiple injuries.

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Your donation will help provide veterinary medical care to this injured Bald Eagle and approximately 4,000 other patients that the Wildlife Center will help this year.


Patient Updates

Bald Eagle #21-0214 was successfully released today at Grand Caverns!

Photos by Barb Melton:

Photo by Jeff Morrill: 

This is the Animal Control Officer who rescued this Bald Eagle in early 2021!

Bald Eagle Release in the News: 

Eagle Released At Grand Caverns, Daily News-Record

Wildlife Center of Virginia releases rehabbed bald eagle, The News Virginian

Bald Eagle Released In The Valley, WMRA

The American Eagle in Virginia: A Great Conservation Story, RadioIQ-WVTF

Bald Eagle #21-0214 will be released back to the wild on Thursday, August 19 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern at Grand Caverns in Grottoes, Virginia [5 Grand Caverns Drive]. The release is open to the public; please let us know if you’re coming by emailing Please indicate that you will be attending the Grand Caverns release [we hope to have several Bald Eagle releases this month] along with the number of people in your party. Those attending the release should plan on parking near shelter four.

The Wildlife Center is following all CDC Guidelines and recommendations with regard to SARS-CoV-2. Current data suggest the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in outdoor settings is minimal. In general, fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask outdoors. Fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised. Please be respectful and physically distance with those outside of your party.

Bald Eagle #21-0214 has been flying well during daily exercise; the bird is able to fly the length of the A3 flight pen at least 15 days during each exercise session, and has no lingering effects of the lead toxicity that initially brought the eagle to the Center in March.

The staff is working on release plans for this eagle, in coordination with the Department of Wildlife Resources. Stay tuned for updates; to receive notifications of any public releases, sign up for our email list!

Bald Eagle #21-0214 has been recovering well in the Center’s outdoor A3 flight pen during the past few weeks, and has successfully restarted a daily exercise routine. On July 16, the rehabilitation staff noted that the eagle was able to fly between 5-10 passes of the enclosure. By July 22, the eagle was able to complete between 10-15 passes — a good sign that its physical conditioning and coordination is improving. While a scab is still present on the bird’s patagial wound, the veterinary staff have determined that it does not require additional treatment at this time. Bald Eagle #21-0214 will remain outdoors in the A3 flight pen for now, where the Center’s rehabilitators will continue to exercise and assess this juvenile eagle’s potential for release in the future.

Late last week, Dr. Cam examined Bald Eagle #21-0214’s patagial wound and found that overall, the leading edge of the bird’s wing was healing well. The patagium has a knot present, but overall the skin and feathers are in good condition. Dr. Cam decided to give the bird a few more days to recover, and then scheduled exercise for the eagle to resume on July 14.

After several days of exercise, the staff will check the eagle’s wing again to make sure everything is still in good condition.

Toward the end of June, the veterinary team noted that the old patagial injury for Bald Eagle#21-0214 was scabbed and partially open; this was right around the same time when Bald Eagle #21-0677 needed to stop exercising in the A3 flight enclosure. At the end of June and beginning of July, the staff carefully checked the bird’s wound during a weekly foot and feather check; the staff have also been dependent on monitoring the bird through the Critter Cam hung in the A3 flight enclosure.

As of July 5, the wound was healing well, but is still partially open; the staff decided to extend the eaglet’s rest from exercise for several more days just to ensure that the bird had no additional issues. The eaglet can still fly well and navigate the A3 flight enclosure.

Bald Eagle #21-0214 has been recovering very well during the past month. The rehabilitation staff have continued exercising the bird each day, and report that it is consistently flying more than 15 passes of the enclosure, displays proper form and stamina while in flight, and is in good overall physical condition. The veterinary staff estimate that this eagle may be a suitable candidate for release within the next few weeks.

For now, though, the rehabilitation staff will pause the eagle’s physical conditioning to accommodate Bald Eagle #21-0677’s need to discontinue exercising for the time being, as exercising a specific patient in an enclosure with multiple individuals is not always possible.

Center staff will keep a close eye on Bald Eagle #21-0214 during the coming weeks, and hope to prepare this patient for release in the near future.

On May 17, the veterinary staff determined that Bald Eagle #21-0214’s patagial wound had healed very well, and that the bird was fit to transition to one of the Center’s large outdoor enclosures. That same day, the eagle was moved to Flight Pen A3 — a 96'-long pen nearly 23' tall at its highest point — alongside Bald Eagle #21-0677 and Bald Eaglet #21-1013.

In this larger space, the veterinary and rehabilitation staff will monitor the eagle during daily exercise sessions. Dr. Karra reports that while the eagle is able to fully extend its wings and flap properly, during the past few days the bird’s physical stamina has been low. However, given this bird’s three-month stay in the Center’s indoor Hold area, more time is needed to assess this eagle’s overall conditioning.

Keep an eye on our Critter Cams to see this patient live on camera!

During the past four weeks, Bald Eagle #21-0214 has remained in the Center’s indoor Hold area. Every other day, the veterinary staff check the bird’s left patagium for signs of infection, necrosis, or abnormal discharge, and change the bird’s bandages. On May 12, Dr. Karra reported that the injury has been healing very well and that the wound had nearly closed completely. The eagle also has a good appetite — an important factor in transitioning to an outdoor enclosure in the future.

For now, this patient will remain indoors where the veterinary staff can keep a close eye on its status.

On March 26, veterinary staff anesthetized Bald Eagle #21-0214 to surgically remove dead tissue from the wound on its left wing. They were able to remove most of the dead tissue, but part of the wound was still too dry for debridement. Afterwards, they thoroughly flushed the wound with an antiseptic and sutured it closed, then placed the eagle back in the Center’s indoor holding area to recover.

Even with surgery and continued treatment for its infection, the wound worsened and the surrounding tissue became discolored, dried, and warm to the touch. Concerned that the patagial ligament in the eagle’s wing was damaged beyond repair, which would leave it unable to fly, the veterinary team decided to flight test the eagle. If it could fly, even if unwell, then it would mean that the patagial ligament was intact enough for rehabilitation. On March 30, the veterinary team took the eagle to flight pen A2, one of the Center’s largest flight pens. Though it struggled, the eagle was able to fly, and the veterinary team continued their efforts to aggressively treat its infection.

After two more weeks of applying specialized bandages to the wound and intensive treatment with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, the eagle’s infection finally appears to be resolving and the wound on its wing is looking better. In addition, radiographs revealed that both its clavicle and coracoid fractures are healing well. The integrity of its patagial ligament is still unclear, and further flight tests will be needed to determine if normal flight can be restored. For now, the eagle is remaining indoors for treatment where veterinary staff can easily monitor the injury on its wing.

During the past three weeks, veterinary staff have kept Bald Eagle #21-0214 in the Center’s indoor holding area for daily treatment and close observation. An in-house lead test revealed that chelation therapy has successfully removed the lead from the eagle’s system, and radiographs have shown slight improvement of the fracture in the eagle’s right wing. However, the puncture wounds on the eagle’s left wing did not respond to its initial course of anti-inflammatories, and developed into a desiccated and severely necrotic wound along the patagium of its wing, a part of the wing that is essential for flight.

Veterinary staff have been cleaning the wound daily with an antiseptic and applying a medical gel to rehydrate the necrotic tissue. By keeping the wound moist, the dead tissue should become easier to remove, which will allow the veterinary team to surgically debride the wound and preserve some of the healthy tissue. To facilitate this process, they have been applying a specialized type of bandage to the wound that helps maintain a moist environment. The veterinary team also started the eagle on a course of antibiotics to help fight off its infection, and anti-fungal medication to prevent aspergillosis, a type of fungal infection that is common in Bald Eagles in captivity.

The eagle is currently remaining indoors where it can rest in between treatment and be closely monitored by veterinary staff. Once the wound on its wing is hydrated enough, they plan to perform surgery to remove the dead tissue and close up the wound. They also plan to take additional radiographs at a later date to assess if its fractures continue to improve.