There is no way to describe Patient 18-748’s intake condition other than terrible. This juvenile bald eagle was found in Harris Beach State Park in late July. Oregon State Police brought her to Town & Country Animal Clinic before she arrived here at our clinic. During her initial exam it was clear the patient was completely emaciated. Her color was poor, she was very weak, and couldn’t stand. The symptoms indicated to our Animal Care Team that Patient 18-748 was the victim of rodenticide poisoning.
RODENTICIDE IN THE FOOD CHAIN
Many people rely on poisons to get rid of rodents but this practice is dangerous to domestic animals and wildlife. Many rodenticides cause spontaneous hemorrhaging in victims. The gruesome death is not immediate which is how many raptors, dogs, cats, and foxes end up with secondary poisoning. As an animal weakens it is more likely to become prey and thus poison another, unintended victim. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency has taken steps to reduce the amount and kind of poisons on the market but the impacts are still widespread. A one year-long study at a rehabilitation clinic found a whopping 86 percent of raptor patients tested positive for anticoagulant rodenticides. The poisons have found success on the market because they appeal to more squeamish consumers because the animal dies out of sight. Exclusion practices and snap traps are typically recommended as the most humane option for the rats themselves and are much safer for wildlife and pets!
LONG DAYS, EVEN LONGER NIGHTS
To ensure Patient 18-748’s survival we turned to a tried and tested method: Vitamin K which helps blood clot. Inside the body, anticoagulant rodenticides work against the body’s natural Vitamin K stores. Once depleted the animal bleeds to death from the inside. To ensure Patient 18-748 had enough Vitamin K in her system our staff provided doses every four hours. Treatment also included extra fluids and tube feedings. This round the clock care paid off! The young bald eagle went from tube feeding to being strong enough to take her meals from a pair of tongs. She still couldn’t stand but the fact that she had the strength to snatch at her food was a huge step in the right direction. Roughly two weeks after she was admitted she was able to stand on her own, eat on her own and is now enjoying a larger rehabilitation enclosure. She has been so active that her tail feathers have been protected in a sheath to ensure they don’t get damaged. Three weeks after arriving at Wildlife Images, Patient 18-748 received her last dose of Vitamin K.
When Patient 18-748 arrived it didn’t seem like she had much of a chance but like every animal in our care, we did everything we could to ensure the best outcome. So far, that’s paid off. Patient 18-748 still has a ways to go. She must prove that she can both fly and hunt live prey. As long as she continues to improve she will be bumped up to larger enclosures until we set a release day. Stay tuned – especially if you live on the coast!
BIG STUDY, BIG IMPACT
We recently learned that Patient 18-748 has been approved to participate in an international study of bald eagles. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service signed off on a blood draw that will be sent to researchers who are studying elevated lead exposure from ammunition in bald eagles. We believe that cooperation and participation in studies like this will result in a better understanding of how wildlife are impacted by humans and how to protect those animals.