College of Veterinary Medicine

Raptors

Two Eagles Brought to WSU Die of Lead Poisoning


Jan 28, 2008
Second eagle dies at WSU Veterinary Hospital
High lead levels found in both birds

JordanPULLMAN, Wash. - The second of two very weak and starving bald eagles found near Colville, Wash., died Friday night at Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. 
 
The body of the 5 year-old mature eagle "Carpenter" was found in his cage by crews Saturday morning. "This is a very difficult time for everyone here who works to save raptors," said Dr. Nickol Finch, who heads up the raptor rehabilitation program at WSU. "We have students, and volunteers who spend countless hours fighting to save these great animals, but given these eagles' poor condition the odds of survival were not good from the beginning."
 
Both eagles suffered from severe dehydration, hypothermia, and had lost a lot of weight before each was found in the wild unable to fly. Last week, the 3-year old juvenile eagle nicknamed "Jordan," died after caregivers say she appeared to be resting well overnight. During treatment at WSU, both eagles remained very lethargic and were not eating well.  Veterinary care providers said each passed quietly in its enclosure.
 
Test results returned Monday show the two suffered from high levels of lead.  Jordan's tests show lead levels at 1.7 milligrams per liter, while Carpenter's test results show a level of 3.3 mg/l. Considering that the normal blood lead level is below 0.20mg/l the blood lead levels for these two eagles are extremely high," said Dr. Erik Stauber, a professor in wildlife and exotic animals at WSU. Adding, "It makes a chance for recovery more or less unachievable, particularly in combination with the poor physical state in which these eagles were presented."
 
A necropsy, (a post-mortem examination of an animal like an autopsy in humans) is being performed at the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory to help provide more clues into the eagles' deaths. Those results are expected back Wednesday.
 
Cases of sick eagles brought to WSU's veterinary college increase somewhat between November and March. A high percentage suffers from lead poisoning; the source of which is remains unclear to many wildlife experts. WSU once successfully treated and released a golden eagle with a blood level of 2.4mg/l, but this is considered to be a rare exception rather than the rule.
 
"The loss of any eagle brought to us with lead poisoning is a tragedy, not only because of the great effort that is put into trying to save it, but more so because we know that lead in the environment, and presumably the eagle's food source, will continue to cause the death of many more eagles until the source can be eliminated." says Dr. Stauber.  His team will continue to gather samples in hopes of finding this mysterious cause.
 
 "Despite our best care, many of these animals won't make it. That's one of the toughest things with this job," said Dr. Finch, "but we need to get past this and prepare for the next one."
 
The raptor care team may not have long to wait.  A bald eagle from the Seattle area may be arriving soon, while the team has been notified a golden eagle could be coming from Oregon.

Jan 25, 2008

Young Eagle "Jordan" Dies

PULLMAN, Wash.- One of two very weak and starving bald eagles found near Colville, Wash., has died at Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. 
 
The 3-year old juvenile eagle nicknamed "Jordan," died this morning after crews say she appeared to be resting well overnight. The eagle suffered severe dehydration, hypothermia, and had lost a large percentage of its normal body weight before it was found in the wild unable to fly.  During treatment at WSU, the eagle remained very lethargic and was not eating well.  Veterinary care providers said Jordan passed quietly in its enclosure.
 
"The odds of survival were not good from the very beginning," said Dr. Nickol Finch, who heads up the raptor rehabilitation service at WSU.
 
The team is now focused on saving the second eagle brought in this week; a 5-year-old mature male bald eagle found just south of Colville along Highway 395.  The WSU crew has named the older eagle "Carpenter." The names come from authors of widely used veterinary avian textbooks.
 
Cases of sick eagles brought to WSU's veterinary college increase somewhat between November and March. A high percentage suffer from lead poisoning; the source of which is still unclear to many wildlife experts. 
 
Early indications are that Jordan suffered from elevated lead levels, but a definitive test is pending.  A necropsy, (a post-mortem examination of an animal like an autopsy in humans) is being performed at the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory to help determine a cause of death.
 
"Losing patients despite our best efforts and unmatched animal medical care is one of the hardest things there is in this job," said Dr. Finch, "but the fact remains that many of these majestic animals can't be saved by the time they get to definitive care."
 
In recent months, WSU successfully rehabilitated and released a pair of eagles from the same region.  "River," a female adult eagle was released near Kettle Falls, Wash., in July 2006, after more than nine months of rehabilitation.  "Kim," a second eagle, was released outside Newport, Wash., in November 2007.

Jan 24, 2008:

Two very weak and starving bald eagles found near Colville, Wash., are now recovering at Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. 
 
The cases are similar in that each bird was discovered alongside roadways by drivers who saw that the eagles were weak and unable to fly.
 
One is a 3-year-old young female bald eagle found near Waits Lake. WSU's recovery team has nicknamed the eagle "Jordan." 
 
The other, is a 5-year-old mature male bald eagle found just south of Colville along Highway 395.  The WSU crew has named the older eagle "Carpenter." The names came from authors of widely used veterinary avian textbooks.
 
After examination by local veterinarians, the birds were brought to Pullman by an agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
 
"Odds [of survival] aren't so good yet," said Dr. Nickol Finch, who heads up the raptor rehabilitation service at WSU. "We're just going to have to keep a close watch, and keep our fingers crossed."
 
Cases of sick eagles brought to WSU's veterinary college seem to increase significantly between November and March. A high percentage suffers from lead poisoning, a factor that still baffles many wildlife experts. 
 
"That's the great puzzle," said Dr. Erik Stauber, who has helped injured eagles recover for decades at WSU. "We don't see any direct evidence with the eagles as to where the lead comes from, but we'll see very high lead levels in more than 70 percent of the golden eagles we treat here at WSU."
 
There are early indications at least one of the eagles suffers from elevated lead levels, but a definitive test won't be returned for at least another week.
 
The good news is x-rays show no broken bones. "We'll make sure they're well fed, and watch for any illness that can develop," said Dr. Finch. 
 
WSU has successfully rehabilitated a pair of eagles from the same region.  River, a female adult eagle was released near Kettle Falls, Wash., in July 2006, after more than nine months of rehabilitation.  Kim a second eagle, was released outside Newport, Wash., in November 2007.

Darin Watkins
College of Veterinary Medicine
Washington State University
(509) 335-4456
Photos courtesy of Henry Moore Jr.
WSU College of Veterinary Medicine

 
Last Edited: Mar 10, 2011 3:11 PM   

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