Bald Eagle #22-3402

October 15, 2022
Rescue Location
Pulaski County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Lead toxicosis
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On October 14, an adult Bald Eagle was found grounded at a landfill in Dublin, Virginia. The finder did not see any obvious injuries but noticed that the eagle could not fly and contacted Giles County Animal Control. An animal control officer responded to the scene, contained  the eagle, and transported the bird to the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center, where it received initial treatment. The eagle was transferred to the Wildlife Center of Virginia the next morning.

On admission, the eagle was bright and alert. Dr. Marit, one of the Center’s veterinary interns, examined the bird and found that it was mildly dehydrated and had a small corneal ulcer in its left eye. No other injuries were found, and radiographs did not show any internal trauma. Blood work, however, revealed the likely cause of the eagle’s inability to fly—the bird had a subclinical lead level of 0.14 ppm lead in its system. Though technically a low level, even this small amount of lead is capable of causing severe health issues for eagles and other raptors, including incoordination, lethargy, difficulty taking flight, and eventually death. The eagle may have been at the landfill scavenging food because it was feeling the effects of lead toxicosis, and the landfill presented an easy source of food for the weakened bird.

After the exam, Dr. Marit administered fluids and started the eagle on a course of antibiotic eye drops, anti-inflammatories, and began chelation therapy to remove the lead from its system. The eagle was placed in the Center’s indoor holding area where veterinary staff could closely monitor the bird and provide frequent treatments.

After one week of treatment, the eagle’s corneal ulcer had resolved and chelation therapy was successful in removing the lead from its system. On October 25, the rehabilitation team moved the eagle to the Center’s A3 flight pen, where it will soon undergo flight conditioning. The eagle’s prognosis remains guarded.

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Patient Updates

On November 16, Ed Clark and a small group of Wildlife Center staff members released Bald Eagle #22-3402 at Claytor Lake State Park. More than 200 people RSVP’d to the release, including the Animal Control Officer who rescued the bird, reporters and photographers representing regional news outlets, and even several busloads of students from a nearby high school.

Photos courtesy of Woody Mallory:


Photos courtesy of Mike Yeatts:

Bald Eagle #22-3402 has remained bright and active during the past week and a half. The eagle has been flying very well during daily exercise routines — "absolutely beautifully", according to Center wildlife rehabilitator Mac — and regularly completes 10 to 15 passes of the A3 flight pen.

A blood sample drawn and analyzed by the veterinary staff was within normal limits, and showed no signs of lead within the eagle’s system. On November 8, it was determined that the bird was ready for release in Pulaski County!

Bald Eagle #22-3402 will be released back to the wild at Claytor Lake State Park on Wednesday, November 16 at 1:00 p.m. by Wildlife Center President Ed Clark. The release is free and open to the public; those wishing to attend the release are asked to RSVP to Release attendees should plan on meeting at the park’s visitor’s center [the Howe House]. The address of the park is 6620 Ben H. Bolen Drive, Dublin, VA 24084.

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.