Bend, Oregon — On November 3rd, Think Wild, Central Oregon’s wildlife hospital and conservation center, received a call about a lethargic, unresponsive Bald Eagle in a tree near Tumalo Reservoir. Think Wild dispatched a rescue and transport
volunteer, Corky Luster, to assess the situation. Although perched in a tree, the eagle’s head and wings were drooped, and the bird was barely responsive to Corky’s approach. Corky climbed the tree to capture the eagle for transport to Think Wild’s wildlife hospital for care.
Upon admission, staff confirmed the head droop and lethargic, minimally responsive behavior in the adult Bald Eagle. The eagle was also thin and dehydrated with debris in the mouth with labored, raspy breathing. Staff conducted a test for lead poisoning which was subclinical. Because Bald Eagles are known to prey on waterfowl, staff considered possible infection with the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and kept the eagle in quarantine for 10 days to avoid potential pathogen spread to other Think Wild patients.
During the time in quarantine, the eagle received daily anti-inflammatories, oral hydration, and hand feeding since they were
not initially self-feeding. Within a week at Think Wild, the eagle’s body condition and mentation gradually improved and they began to show interest in food. By the end of quarantine, the eagle had gained 800 grams – a 25% increase – and symptoms were mostly resolved. At that point, HPAI was eliminated as the cause, so staff moved the eagle to a flight enclosure to rebuild flight stamina and undergo live prey and flight tests.
On Monday, November 27th, Think Wild staff released the Bald Eagle back to the wild at Tumalo Reservoir. A small group of volunteers and donors joined to observe the release. According to Wildlife Technician Savanna Scheiner, “The eagle’s flight at the release surpassed even what we’d observed in the flight enclosure at Think Wild. We were able to witness the eagle gain and maintain lift, then soar over the release attendees for several minutes after taking off. We are confident that this eagle will be able to thrive back in the wild.”
This is the first adult Bald Eagle that Think Wild has rehabilitated and released to the wild. Like with many injured wildlife who are found days or even weeks after injury, Think Wild staff were not able to determine the exact cause of the eagle’s poor condition upon arrival, although it is possible that the eagle ingested a toxin like rodenticide. Lead, blood, and fecal tests can only provide so much information, and not every injury is as obvious as a barbed wire entanglement or car strike. Fortunately, the large raptor responded well to care and is soaring the skies above Central Oregon for another chance at life.
Bald Eagles are large raptors native to North America. They typically nest in forested areas near bodies of water, eating primarily fish and waterfowl, as well as scavenged carcasses. Previously declining populations of Bald Eagles have recovered in the past several decades, with an estimated 4% population growth each year between 1966 and 2019. Bald Eagles are protected in the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Act. Bald Eagles are susceptible to the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). If you come across any bird of prey with neurologic or lethargic behavior, it’s important to alert Think Wild or ODFW so we can offer care and monitor the prevalence of HPAI in Central Oregon.