ROSEVILLE, CA - A golden eagle suffering from lead poisoning is being nursed back to health.
It was found on the ground in Colusa County near East Park Reservoir. A local wildlife rehab group brought the eagle into the Bird and Pet Clinic in Roseville this week with levels of lead that were off-the-chart. A big concern was whether the bird would survive and recover from the lead poisoning.
The eagle is paralyzed and can't use her feet or her talons. It will take a month before the eagle may be able to stand. She also has some paralysis of her tongue. The eagle also has kidney problems.
But, after nearly a week at the clinic, the eagle has a good appetite again and is being treated with medicine twice a day.
"It's a waiting game now," veterinarian Vicki Joseph said. "We don't know if it's permanent damage. That's the unfortunate thing."
But Joseph is hopeful the technicians and vets can reverse the damage done. On Wednesday afternoon, the eagle's blood test came back with a positive prognosis, her extraordinarily high levels of lead have dropped.
"It's wonderful news. In one week, for that to come down is excellent news," Joseph said.
Joseph explained how the lead poisoning most likely happened.
"We may see three to four golden eagles a year with lead poisoning. We see a fair number of turkey vultures with lead poisoning," Joseph said. "Usually, it's by eating prey species that have lead shot in them."
Joseph said it's a problem they're seeing more often. One veterinarian believes it's because they're eating deer, rabbits or wild pigs that hunters have killed using lead bullets.
Legislation will be unveiled next week to California lawmakers that is aimed at phasing out the use of lead ammunition by hunters statewide. Since 1991, there has been a federal ban on lead ammo when it comes to hunting ducks and geese.
Joseph is hopeful the eagle in her care will make a full recovery that it will be to stand in the next week.
But, they are not sure whether she'll fly or be released into the wild.
"It's not going to be anywhere near that for a minimum of 9 months," Joseph said.
By Suzanne Phan, firstname.lastname@example.org