A young golden eagle was brought to the wildlife hospital in early October 2011 after being found in a Livermore field dragging its wing. During its initial exam hospital staff discovered that the large bird had three broken bones in its right wing: the radius and both metacarpals (the hand bones). After taking x-rays, our veterinarian took the eagle to surgery to try to fix its wing. She placed one large pin through the length of the radius and four smaller pins in the larger metacarpal bone. She then wrapped the wing to add stability to the healing fractures. After several weeks, the bruising and the swelling on the wing had healed. Our vet removed the large pin from the radius and found a callus had formed at the fracture site which meant the bone was healing. The eagle no longer needed to have its wing wrapped and it was able to come off of the antibiotics and pain medications it was receiving. The following week our vet removed the smaller pins from the metacarpal and the eagle was moved to an outdoor aviary so it could start stretching its wing.
After spending some time in the aviary it became apparent that the eagle was not able to fully extend its right wing. Our veterinarian re-examined it and found that the callous that had formed on the ulna had incorporated the radius as well, fusing them together. This was an unfortunate discovery but there was a chance that when the bone had fully healed, and the callous had reabsorbed, it would free the ulna from the radius and the eagle would be flighted.
The eagle started receiving physical therapy twice a week with one of those times being under anesthesia. Hospital staff needed the eagle to be completely relaxed so they could adequately stretch its wing, a difficult thing to do with an eagle that is fully awake! Our veterinarian started using ultrasound on the eagle’s callous, as recent studies have shown that ultrasound waves can help break down scar tissue and increase blood circulation. After several weeks of these treatments, the callous reabsorbed freeing the ulna from the radius! The eagle could finally fully extend its wing.
The eagle was now ready to start rebuilding its strength and needed the space to do so. Our 50 foot aviary was too small for the eagle, so hospital staff transferred the bird to Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue where they have a 100 foot aviary. Their staff worked daily with the eagle encouraging it to fly the full length of their aviary. After spending several months with them, the eagle was finally ready for release!
The eagle has now been transferred back to our wildlife hospital so it can be released near where it was originally found. Hospital staff will be working with local eagle biologists who will take the eagle’s measurements, collect blood and place a federal band on the eagle on the day of its release. Hospital staff thanks everyone for their continued support. You make it possible for us to give wild animals, like this golden eagle, a second chance at life!
Watch a 5 min video of the eagle at his release!