Poisoned eagle dies

Published 9:22 pm Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A bald eagle that was found sick on the side of U.S. Route 58 near the Suffolk landfill on Saturday has died while undergoing treatment at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Waynesboro.

Natalie Hall, a veterinary intern with the Wildlife Center of Virginia, said late Tuesday in an e-mail that the bird had died from lead poisoning, “most likely due to ingestion of a food item containing lead.”

The bird had been taken to the specialized animal hospital over the weekend after being captured alongside the highway, about a quarter-mile west of the landfill, by Suffolk Animal Control officers.

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Hall said on Monday that the bird had been “very weak and seizuring,” with physical symptoms consistent with lead poisoning, when it arrived at the Wildlife Center.

Doctors at the center had put the eagle into a “critical care chamber” and were administering fluids, oxygen and various medications to sedate the bird, control its convulsions and remove the lead from its system.

“This is a very severe case,” Hall said, noting that the center’s lab tests had been unable to measure the high levels of lead in the raptor’s body.

She speculated at the time that the bird either had been shot or had eaten something with lead shot in it.

This is the second bald eagle found sick in the same general vicinity in less than two months, but it is the first that suffered from lead poisoning, Hall stressed on Tuesday. The other bird, a juvenile, was captured at the landfill and taken to the Wildlife Center, where it was diagnosed with pesticide poisoning.

Veterinarians were able to flush the toxins from the bird’s system and released it back into the wild in Charles City County in late December.

In her e-mail on Tuesday, Hall said the different poisons in the two cases led doctors to believe that the cases are unrelated.

Further post-mortem tests are planned to help pinpoint a cause of death, she wrote.