PULLMAN — The second of two very weak and starving bald eagles found near Colville, Wash., died Friday night at WSU’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.
“It makes a chance for recovery more or less unachievable, particularly in combination with the poor physical state in which these eagles were presented,” Stauber said.
A necropsy, (a post-mortem examination of an animal similar to 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,” said 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 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.