Monday, July 11, 2011

Golden Eagle from Horseshoe Two Fire!

An immature Golden Eagle presented to the Tucson Wildlife Center after a rancher up near the Horseshoe Two Fire called in saying he had found a large bird unable to fly near his property.  Golden Eagles can range anywhere from 3-6kg (or 6-13lbs) when fully mature and have a wingspan up to 7 feet (2 meters)!  The Golden Eagle population is threatened in North America by loss of habitat and because of exposure to organochlorides and heavy metals (zinc, lead, iron, mercury, etc).  Because of this, they are protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and it is extremely important to go to great lengths to save each individual.

Immature Golden Eagle
Lou Rae, one of the head wildlife rehabilitation specialists, immediately drove from the center to pick up the bird since the rancher described the bird being very lethargic and very easy to catch (concerning when dealing with a Golden Eagle!)  On physical examination, the eagle was dehydrated and very thin (2kg, or 4.4lbs).  No external injuries were noted on examination.  The question we set out to answer was.... How did the eagle become so thin and dehydrated and why was he so easy to catch?

As mentioned above, populations of these large birds have been threatened by habitat destruction, organochlorides, and heavy metal toxicosis.  We initially wanted to send out an extensive work-up (full blood work and toxicology screening) but only had enough money to test for blood lead levels.  Unfortunately we see and treat a large amount of birds of prey that have been shot at themselves by people (an illegal activity) or eaten an animal that had been shot with bullets containing lead.

We submitted the test to the Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and within a few days the results were back!  The golden eagle's lead (Pb) levels were elevated but not within a toxic range (meaning the lead was probably not contributing to the eagle's lethargy and generalized wasting).  We suspect that the eagle was doing poorly because it was displaced by the Horseshoe Two Fire.

It would have been useful to run a full blood panel on the bird to take a look at all angles of possible reasons why he could have been so emaciated.  A complete blood count would have enabled us to take a look at his red blood cells (RBCs) and white blood cells (WBCs).  Some birds become anemia (low RBC count) and this can cause lethargy, or the eagle could have had an infection (which would have shown a higher white blood cell count than normal).  A biochemistry profile would have been able to help us look at his liver and kidney values to see if these were affected, among other important information.  Click the donate button to the right of the screen to help us fund more extensive testing on cases like these!  We depend on donations from people like you to help our wildlife....

Nonetheless, we treated with fluid therapy, special medications to help bind any existing lead levels in the blood, and assist feedings.  The eagle slowly regained strength and weight and was able to move from our intensive care unit to an outside enclosure.  It has acclimated well and continues to show improvements every day!  Hopefully soon he will be releasable back to the wild so keep returning for updates!

Rescue, Rehab, and Release

1 comment:

  1. Check out the story entitled Get the Lead Out from Living Bird Magazine