Clinic Stories

Bald Eagle

It is common for animal control or clients to bring injured or orphaned wildlife to our office. Some of these animals, such as predatory and migratory birds and bears, are protected by law. As such there are treatment guidelines that we follow. But there is a difference between protected species and endangered species. Only once have I been involved with an endangered animal – a bald eagle.

As a board certified avian specialist, state wildlife officials brought a bald eagle and a ground hog to me. Both were found dead close together in a farmer's field. State officials believed that the farmer had spread some toxin on the field that had killed both, and poisoning a bald eagle is a crime.

However, taking any part of a bald eagle is also a crime which complicated the process. I had to sign a form stating that I would return the eagle and all parts, including feathers, to a wildlife agent. As we were checking for poisoning, tissue samples had to be submitted for toxicology. These samples had to be weighed, cataloged, sent directly to a toxicologist and signed for.

The groundhog was quite ripe having died at least a week before the eagle. Neither showed any overt signs indicating a cause of death. In the final analysis no poison was found in the tissues of either and the farmer was off the hook.

Even though we never determined why the eagle died and despite the bureaucracy involved, it was a most memorable case.

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