Sickly eagle rescued, diagnosed with lead poisoning and a broken boneDULUTH - The sickly eagle rescued Monday from along a Northwestern Wisconsin road and then driven to Duluth on the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle has low-level lead poisoning and an old fracture of its ulna, one of its wing bones.
By: Duluth News Tribune, Worthington Daily Globe
DULUTH - The sickly eagle rescued Monday from along a Northwestern Wisconsin road and then driven to Duluth on the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle has low-level lead poisoning and an old fracture of its ulna, one of its wing bones.
Julia Ponder, director of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center in Minneapolis, said the adult male bird was admitted Tuesday in a weak and thin condition but is hanging on.
"The reason it’s down [not flying] is because of the wing injury, which likely happened awhile ago," Ponder said. "So it’s probably been scavenging on the ground for some time." The broken wing bone, she added, has already started to heal.
Raptors and other birds sometimes pick up lead from bullet fragments in deer carcasses or from small lead fishing jigs and weights. Lead poisoning can affect the neurological system and render birds unable to fly. Ultimately, it can be fatal if not treated.
The eagle is getting daily injections of a medication that binds to the lead in the bloodstream, allowing it to be excreted.
"We see a lot of lead in eagles, and scavenging puts it at a higher risk," Ponder said. "But it’s at a level we can treat."
Ponder is hoping the wing will continue to heal on its own without needing surgery, that the lead level will diminish and that the bird will gain weight.
"We’ll know more with a little bit of time. We’re still gathering information on this bird," she said. "The more problems a bird has, the less chance it has of recovering from all of them."
The Raptor Center treats as many as 800 birds of prey each year, including about 100 eagles. Nearly 30 percent of eagles treated there suffer from elevated lead levels.
Brian Baladez of Cloquet found the eagle foundering along Highway T near Wascott, Wis., managed to capture it and strapped it with bungee cords to the saddlebag of his Harley Davidson for the 50-mile ride into Duluth.