Sunday, March 21, 2010

Eagles to The Left of Me...Eagles to The Right of Me

Yes, we have had more than one eagle come into Wolf Hollow over the past month or three. Let's start out with the one I alluded to in my last post.

This eagle is one from here in San Juan Island. It came in very weak, unable to fly, and with a squeaky rasp when it breathed in and out. They drew blood to send to the lab to test for lead poisoning but since it takes a day or two to get the results back, we decided to treat it as if it might have been poisoned and flushed him with a coal solution just in case. He was also given electrolytes for dehydration and vitamins. He was skinny enough to start on emaciation protocol so that's what we did, starting out with straight fluids and then gradually introducing liquids into that mixture that have a bit of easily digestible sugars in them, like Ensure. The lab results came back and sure enough he had lead poisoning. If I have said it once I will say it again...ALL LEAD PRODUCTS, INCLUDING BULLETS AND SHOT, NEED TO BE OUTLAWED!!! I am so tired of seeing these gorgeous animals come in suffering from the horrid effects of having ingested lead in one form or another, not to mention what lead does to the environment!

So we immediately started him on a calcium compound to hopefully help neutralize whatever lead was still in his body. Even after a few weeks he was still regurgitating a lot of his slurry formula and still had the wheezing going on. At this point he was given an anti-fungal medication in case he had some fungal infection in his lungs due to his immune system being so depressed. And while his fecal eventually changed from the bright green indicative of lead poisoning, it then went to the dark green of emaciation and stayed there. He also wasn't perching and was lying down some of the time.

That's NEVER a good sign. We then started him on some meds to hopefully help with his digestion issues. Many talks were had about if he should be euthanized, but as in a few cases we have had, you start talking like that and the next day the animal seems to improve just enough that you decide to wait a few more days...just to see how he does. Well, gradually the wheezing just presented itself when he was stressed, especially when being held during tube feedings. Then he started keeping his slurry down and his fecal started to look almost...normal. Then the wheezing stopped altogether. We started adding more venison to the slurry and less electrolytes. Then we started doing one feeding of force-fed venison in between tube feedings.

I have to admit that at this point I started thinking "Geez! He just may make it!" Shona then had to point out that while he was keeping meat down now and his fecal was looking normal, he still wasn't perching. Nope, he wasn't, but he was feeling good enough now that when you went back in to the Indoor Mew to release him, you had to try and get partway back at the door before whipping off the sheet he was covered in, as he turns around and tries to attack your legs and feet! Yep, he's a feisty one! And that IS a good thing!

I went in last Sunday to help with tube feeding and when I walked into the building, Vanessa came up to me and said, with a huge grin, "He's perching!" I immediately ran back to the Quiet Room and peeked through the window and saw this:

YES!!! And not only was he perching, but as you can see, for the first time that I have heard, he did the pissed off eagle yell at me! YES²!!!! At that stage we started trying to get him to eat the venison on his own. Shona said that they could get him to take the first piece off the forceps but after that they had to pry open his beak. I told Shona that if we got to the point where he could be released, he would be one of our greatest success stories ever!

I took a weekend off to take my 3rd IOSA class, Search and Rescue of Oiled Birds, and the next weekend I came back to a completely different bird from the one I dealt with 2 weeks before! He was obviously not feeling well at all and I was told he had started back sliding the week before. They had taken blood from him and his lead levels were back to normal but who knows what kind of permanent damage the once toxic level of lead did to his body.

Once again he let me pick him up without a struggle and when I went to release him he just sat there. I was also told that he had been given food with fur/bones and he wasn't pelleting these items. They did an x-ray but didn't see anything that looked like a blockage. I called this past Friday to see what the latest was with him and was told he had died earlier that day. Sigh.

The next eagle we had come in was a youngster which weirdly I seem to have no good pic of. He came in from Fir Island and was emaciated and weak. Blood work showed him to be anemic and dehydrated. He was given vitamin shots and was tube fed as well. Unfortunately after one tube feeding session he regurgitated some of his slurry and started coughing. Vanessa took him back out of his carrier and leaned him over to help get whatever he was coughing on out of his mouth and he died in her arms. Obviously there was something majorly wrong with him to begin with, but this also goes to show that, as big as they are, they are a bird and can react negatively to stress just like the tiniest of song birds.

The case of our 3rd eagle had a very weird beginning. People had heard a loud CRACK and then she fell out of the sky.
I went and picked her up at the airport and I didn't hear any noise coming from the carrier at all, which I thought was a bit odd. When I got her to Wolf Hollow, Vanessa peeked in and said she thought she was dead. Shona peeked in and said she thought she may be right but she was putting on gloves just in case. The eagle was literally lying there with its eyes open and not blinking. Shona nudged her with a finger and one eye moved. Very strange. It was when she went in to grab it and took it out of the carrier that she exploded, struggling this way and that! Once she was gotten under control again she kind of slumped over as if exhausted. Very weird!

Then we got started with her physical. We first checked her over for any visible signs of a wound, as one of the first things we wondered was if she had been shot, but we found no such wound.

Then we checked her wings.

While nothing seemed too droopy she did seem to be not using her left wing as much as her right and on palpitating the wing bones, we discovered a break. We would need to finish the exam, as a broken wing bone shouldn't have her acting the way she was.

We then checked out her legs...

...My! What big talons you have my dear!!.......

...and then checked her pupillary response to light.

While her left pupil was a bit slower to react, it was nothing so noticeably different to really be noteworthy.

What WAS noteworthy was how squinty-eyed she seemed to be.

We decided to draw blood on her to check a few things out, like her protein levels, and that's when the next odd thing appeared.

When one goes to draw blood using a vein in the wing, the vein is standing right out, as it goes over one of the wing bones. On this eagle, however, it wasn't noticeable at first. There seemed to be a fatty layer right under the skin, skin which had almost a yellow tinge to it. Vanessa had to swab down the area a bit before it popped up enough for her to see it to draw blood from it. Shona, who has been with Wolf Hollow for over 15 years, says she has NEVER seen anything like that before. And when she makes remarks like that, you KNOW that it's an odd situation!

The pipettes, or as they are technically called, the micro-hematocrit tubes, are run through the centrifuge and then are placed on a card with the top of the serum and the bottom of the red blood cells aligned with the top and bottom lines on the card. This allows you to see what percentage of buffy-coat (i.e. white blood cells) are in the blood sample. Anything over 1-2% can mean there is some kind of infection going on.

Hers was about 2-3% but this could have been due, in her case, to the wing break. During this same period you look at what percentage the red blood cells make up of this whole tube. Normal for an eagle is ~30-50%. Hers stood at ~56%.

Then came a part of the blood analysis that I have seen done before but have never actually gotten to do. A big thanks to Vanessa for asking me if I wanted to do this part, 'cause I really did! You take this long, skinny, and triangular shaped file and you scratch a line in the tube as close to the buffy coat as you can but in the clear/serum section. This line helps you cleanly break the tube at that point.

You then carefully place a drop or two of serum on the face of this gadget, called a Refractometer, and close the clear cover over the top of it.

Am I dating myself if I say this thing looks like it is straight out of a classic Star Trek episode? Probably. Ah well! This tells us what the Total Protein level is in the blood of the animal....basically the animal's nutritional state. Normal for an eagle is ~4.4 and hers was ~5.3. With both the Pac Cell Volume and the Total Protein levels being higher than normal, the first thing this indicates is that the animal is probably dehydrated, as not enough fluids will make everything more concentrated. So we tubed her with fluids!

Later that afternoon we got her out to give her some meds for pain and to x-ray her left wing.

And there it oblique fracture to her left radius. The good thing about fractures to the radius is that the other bone, the ulna, acts almost like a splint for it. At this point we decided to not wrap it and to just keep her in a dog kennel where she had minimal space to move her wings. The only worry was that sometimes breaks can calcify in a way that spans across to the ulna. We were going to have to keep a close eye on that.

After a couple of weeks her wing was x-rayed again and it looked great!!!

It was calcifying nicely and wasn't bridging across to the ulna. It was decided at this time to put her outside where she had a bit more space, as she was going a bit stir-crazy in her kennel. When I saw her next, she was acting prettty agressively towards anyone who went out to feed her in her mew.

Yep....threat displays and all! She was looking great! Now she has started the gradual progression to larger and larger flight cages. She is now in the Heron cage, which is the last stop before hitting the Eagle Flight cage.

She really is one gorgeous bird!

Well, that's it for now. It truly has been beyond slow at the Hollow, so I will wait until next time to tell you about this feisty wee one.

Til next time...


Anonymous said...

Wow, what interesting stories. Glad at least one is looking like she’ll recover and be released. I volunteer at a care center and we just got a bald eagle in that I got the give fluids to and being next to such a large bird is truly a privilege!

Kari C. said...

Are the 2 pictures of the Xrays by chance taken at the same time or was she well on the way to being healed in picture #1? I was looking at the first and thought, "Oh, she's already mostly healed, good!" Just wondering, they seemed very similar. And gods, what BIG talons! I had forgotten that the girls are so much bigger than the boys! SO beautiful! Thanks for the update! :)

Penny said...

Wow, I thought I was behind in posting.. Loves ya Heather!

Friend of Kari's said...

I am missing seeing new postings from you, please put more pics up!!! It's been a long time, a few more weeks and you can put out an anniversary edition!

ANNE said...

Just discovered your blog, and its fascinating. I used to work at a rehab facility for seabirds, mostly taking care of brown pelicans affected by botulism from the Salton Sea. It was wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time. Your facility sounds top notch, so thankful there are folks like you!