Wednesday, May 22, 2002

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Progressive Animal
Welfare Society

PO Box 1037
Lynnwood, WA 98046

Fly Like an Eagle
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

The third week of May was an exceptional week for releases as the PAWS Wildlife Department returned two eagles to the wild. See the video of their releases. The eagles, one golden and one bald, were housed together in a large flight pen at PAWS for several weeks before they were released. Although they shared space, and similar fates, the two eagles’ stories are very different.

Golden Eagle release

This golden eagle was found poisoned and emaciated at Northwest Trek. PAWS Wildlife rehabilated the eagle and returned him to Northwest Trek last week to fly free once again.

The golden eagle was brought to PAWS in March after being found by a tram driver in a large field in the middle of the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. She was extremely weak and unable to fly but showed no signs of external injuries.

The eagle was examined and X-rayed at the PAWS Wildlife Center and it was determined that she had an old fracture in her right coracoid bone (near the shoulder). The fracture appeared to be stable and did not fully account for the bird’s weak condition. Blood was drawn and samples were sent to a lab for testing. The results showed elevated levels of lead in the eagle’s blood. The bird was treated for lead poisoning and her strength slowly returned. After several weeks of treatment the eagle regained her ability to fly. At this point she was placed in the large flight pen to enable her to strengthen her flight muscles and gain stamina.

The eagle appeared to be strong and healthy again as she left the confines of her transport carrier on May 15th. She flew low across the field in which she had been found before gaining altitude and landing in a large fir tree. After a quick assessment of her new surroundings, the eagle took flight once again and soared skyward on a strong thermal. Taking full advantage of the fact that she was no longer restricted by a cage, she continued to gain altitude until she was a small speck in the sky.

The bald eagle arrived at PAWS in December of 2001. She was found near the Columbia River just West of Quincy and was weak and unable to fly. Upon examination, she was found to have a golf ball-sized growth on her right leg and some weakness in one of her wings. There were no detectable injuries to the wing but the weakness persisted for some time. The bird was sent to Washington State University for further diagnostic work.

Eagle release

After five months of care, a bald eagle returns to the wild in Eastern Washington.

At WSU, it was determined that the bird had experienced an electrical shock, likely from landing on a high voltage power line. The electricity had exited her body through her wing and she had suffered some tissue damage as a result. The growth on her leg was found to be a cancerous tumor called a “chondrosarcoma”. The tumor was successfully removed and the eagle retained full use of her leg. The wing injury healed and the bird also regained full use of her injured wing. She was transferred back to PAWS and was placed in the flight pen with the golden eagle.

On May 17, the bald eagle was taken to the Schaake State Wildlife Recreation area for release. She was driven to the top of a large hill overlooking the Columbia River. After spending a few minutes on the ground to get her bearings, she spread her wings and let the wind carry her aloft. Her flight was strong and steady and she showed no uncertainty in the strength of her wings. She was last seen heading directly towards the Columbia River, moving rapidly with the assistance of a strong tailwind.

Dangers to Wildlife
There are many potential sources of lead exposure for wildlife including lead fishing sinkers and lead shot from shotgun shells. Ducks and geese often inadvertently swallow lead sinkers or shot as they feed on aquatic plants. The source of the lead poisoning that was suffered by the golden eagle was not determined.

High voltage power lines, radio towers and other electrified structures can also pose great danger to wildlife. Birds are frequently electrocuted when they land on power lines and injured when they collide with guy wires that are used to support large towers. In the case of the bald eagle, the effects of her encounter with the high voltage line would have proven fatal had she not received care.

Wildlife Release tally: May 1 to May 14, 2002
1 Coyote
1 Mallard
1 Pacific Loon
1 Glaucous-winged Gull
1 Herring Gull
3 Rock Doves
2 Band-tailed Pigeons
2 American Crows
1 American Robin
2 Eastern Cottontails
2 Killdeer
1 House Finch
12 Eastern Gray Squirrels

Wildlife Release tally: 2002 Year to Date
116 mammals and birds

All rights reserved. 2002 Progressive Animal Welfare Society

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