Eagle rescued in Temperanceville still undergoing rehabilitation

November 11, 2021
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By Linda Cicoira

A female adult bald eagle, that was stuck in a wastewater treatment pond and covered in grease, in Temperanceville, in August, continues to be monitored by rehabilitators at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, following a process called “imping,” which will help her fly again.

The eagle was found by an unidentified citizen. Wildlife Rehabilitator Jodie Sokel, of Exmore, was contacted, according to the Waynesboro center report. Sokel captured the eagle so it could be taken to the center the next morning. 

On admission, the eagle was alert and responsive. On a vet’s examination, “she was mildly dehydrated and had grease residue on her feathers and abrasions on the carpi (wrists) and phalanges (fingers) of both wings. The exam did not reveal any fractures or other wounds.”

The eagle, referred to as #21-3026, also had a low level of lead toxicity, which had the potential to be fatal if left untreated. A course of chelation therapy was started to remove the lead from her system.

“Eagles … are getting the lead primarily by scavenging the carcasses or remains of animals left in the field by hunters,” another center report stated.  “When shot with lead ammunition, game animals can contain very small pieces of lead, which fragment upon impact with the target.”

The eagle was also given fluids for her dehydration. Bandages and protective carpal bumpers were put on her wings. The veterinary team kept the eagle in the center’s indoor holding area to rest in-between treatments and for close monitoring.

 On Sept. 3rd, she was moved to a flight pen to assess her ability to fly. A tub of water was placed in her enclosure, so that she could remove any remaining grease from her feathers, according to the report.

“They found that the eagle would mostly remain on the ground. When approached, she would run away and flap her wings but could not gain any lift. The rehabilitation team also discovered a large number of broken feathers in her enclosure. Upon closer inspection of the feathers, they found signs of chewing, and suspect that the eagle was damaging her feathers.”

In early October, radiographs were taken to see if there was an internal injury that could be causing her flight issues. No injuries or abnormalities were discovered. The eagle was then given antibiotics and pain medication. Later medicine was given to reduce her stress in captivity to stop her from chewing her feathers.

Through most of last month, she was housed in a flight pen for close monitoring during exercise sessions. She was not observed flying. On Oct. 26, the eagle was anesthetized so radiographs could be taken and the imping could occur.

The procedure involves taking healthy feathers, collected from deceased patients of the same species, and attaching them to the base of damaged feathers, resulting in a feather transplant.  

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“The feathers can take months to grow back, but imping allows birds with feather damage to regain flight more quickly,” the report stated. “The donor feathers are attached to the bird’s feather shafts using an adhesive. When the bird molts, the imped feathers will fall out as new feathers grow in to take their place.”

Three donor feathers were attached to the damaged feathers on the eagle’s left wing. Since then, she has not been able to get off the ground for more than a couple of seconds. It is hoped that will soon improve and she will be released.

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