Birds We've Helped

The Eagle From Hygiene, CO Recovers From Rattlesnake

Early in July we started to receive phone calls from individuals who regularly observed a Bald Eagle nest in Hygiene, Colorado. The callers reported that one of the fledgling eagles was on the ground, and they were becoming increasingly concerned. The eagles at this location had already suffered an unfortunate blow earlier in the year when the mother was electrocuted. Although the male had taken a new mate, it wasn’t clear if the new female was helping care for the babies. Colorado Parks and Wildlife went out to the nesting site and found that the young eagle needed help. She was weak and unable to fly when the officer approached her on the ground. She was easily caught and transported to our facility.

At the ICU, we evaluated the young eagle. She was emaciated and dehydrated, and her right foot was swollen, with visible small punctures.We gave her fluids and nutritious meals and her strength and energy returned quickly. She was quite the clown waiting for her meals and standing in her water bowl. X-rays confirmed no fractures in her swollen foot, but it was obviously causing her a lot of discomfort.We gave her medication for the pain and inflamma- tion, as well as a course of antibiotics for any infection.

It soon became apparent that the injury to her foot was quite serious.When the skin around the puncture marks began to blacken and die, we could tell that the punctures

were fang marks from a rattlesnake. Raptors are opportunistic hunters and—amazingly enough—regularly hunt snakes.We continued her medications and kept the wounds clean, and she began to recover quickly.

After a month in ICU she was able to join other young Bald Eagles in our largest flight enclosure. She lost quite a few primary feathers on one wing, which could be from toxins from the bite, trauma, or even nutritional deficiencies from being so thin when she was admitted.

She has adapted well in the flight cage, where she will stay until next summer.Young eagles remain with their parents up until the next breeding season, and are not mature enough to survive on their own.The more mature they are and the more practice they have hunting before release substantially increases their odds of survival.

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