Injured eagle on mend

LYNNWOOD — A bald eagle battered by an apparent run-in with an automobile looks like it will survive its injuries, thanks to medical help its been getting at the PAWS Wildlife Center.

The adult male bird suffered many injuries after it apparently hit a vehicle at high speed in the Tacoma area more than a week ago, said Dr. John Huckabee, a PAWS wildlife veterinarian.

“From the injuries, my guess is that it sustained some type of blunt trauma from the right side,” he said. “The signs were most consistent with having a collision with a car, then rolling on the pavement.”

Huckabee operated on the eagle on Tuesday, repairing “a laundry list of injuries” including wounds that had exposed the bird’s skull, damage to one of its eyes and an injury to one of its wings.

“It was in very poor condition when it came in,” he said. “It was very nonresponsive, very dehydrated. If it had been left alone, chances are it would have died. It would not have been able to fend for itself in that condition.”

The eagle had to be fed with a feeding tube for several days because of a problem with its jaw and overall weakness. Huckabee let the bird recover for a week before operating on it.

There was enough skin to cover the bare spot on its skull, and many of its other scrapes and bruises were cleaned up and should heal, he said.

There are three more serious problems that may not heal properly.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that the bird will do well,” he said. “The wing appears to be healing OK. The eye we will be monitoring very closely. The beak: We will have to wait see.”

If the bird doesn’t recover fully and cannot be reintroduced to the wild, it will be put down, Huckabee said.

“We feel that it’s very important that animals that come from the wild are returned to the wild,” he said. “It’s exceptionally stressful for a wild animal to be kept in captivity.”

The bird was found in the Lake Tapps area by a woman walking along a trail. She called for help and a state Department of Fish and Wildlife officer got the bird and brought it to PAWS in Lynnwood.

Even though bald eagles have been taken off the federal endangered species list, it remains illegal for a member of the public to pick up an injured bald eagle, said Darren Friedel, a spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The birds remain on the state’s endangered species list.

Anyone finding a bald eagle under such circumstances can avoid legal trouble by calling the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Washington State Patrol or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Legally, it’s unlawful to posses a bald eagle,” he said. “People should leave the eagle alone. That way a trained officer can respond and properly handle the bird and transfer it to a wildlife rehabilitator.”

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