GLEN ELLYN, Ill. - It’s difficult to see a symbol of America sedated and looking lifeless. But that's what our crew saw Thursday at Willowbrook Wildlife Center.
The veterinary team was checking its blood and taking X-rays, as they work to treat the bald eagle who arrived at the start of the year with a mystery medical problem.
"Our first concern was, ‘Is this animal shot?’ We do see that unfortunately, frequently with some of our non-legally hunted birds," said Sarah Reich, DVM, Head Veterinarian, Willowbrook Wildlife Center.
The eagle was covered with a lot of blood.
Turns out it was because his blood wouldn't clot, due to anticoagulant rodenticide. That's what you might call rat poison.
Dr. Reich says it just takes a poisoned mouse running by.
"If an eagle comes down and eats it, or if an eagle scavenges because eagles are scavengers, they can get exposed to it," said Reich.
That eagle arrived here just days after a female one. X-rays showed two fractures in the shoulder area, likely from a collision with a car.
"We did have to bandage that bird's wing to the body. She was not thrilled about that," said Reich.
The female eagle is now at the wildlife center in a small shrouded cage where the vets say she is doing well.
The goal is to get the eagles into the bigger flight barn eventually where they could fly a 100-foot loop. But right now they’re just not strong enough.
"It's hard because right now we're getting into nesting season for these guys. They're having families or going to start laying eggs.. So we really want to get some of these guys back to their known territories," said Reich.
Meantime, they’ll be at this busy wildlife center, which saw a record setting 11,500 animals last year.
Once the sedation wore off, that male eagle who looked lifeless earlier, started to seem feistier. He has at least a month of treatment ahead, but the staff hopes he's on the long path toward soaring once more.