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Exact cause of Maries County eagle's unusual injury unknown

Friday, April 18, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

CAMDENTON — It is not uncommon for Phelps County Conservation Agent Darrin Wood to receive calls regarding injured wildlife throughout the year.

He received one of those calls in late March regarding an injured bald eagle spotted on private property north of Highway P on Highway 68 in Maries County.

"I promptly responded," said Wood. "I was taken about a quarter of a mile onto the caller's property where a group had been waiting with the injured bird."

Wood said he was able to quickly capture the eagle and place it into a large pet taxi for safekeeping.

"The eagle did not appear to have a wing injury, which left me with a few possible diagnoses: lead poisoning, possible head trauma due to flying into something or a gun-shot wound," he said.

The next day, Wood contacted MU and brought the eagle to the Raptor Rehabilitation Project in Columbia.

Throughout the year, Wood routinely receives calls from people who have come across injured wildlife; however, a call regarding an eagle is rare.

"This was my first live eagle call," Wood said. "There have been two eagles shot in Osage County in the past few months that I know of which could have been linked to this eagle if it was shot."

He recently contacted the Raptor Rehabilitation Project and found out the exact cause of the eagle's injury was inconclusive.

Rehabilitation staff were able to conclude that the eagle was a mature male that suffered a traumatic head injury at some point, which completely detached the retina in his left eye and was too severe to rehabilitate for release back to the wild. The eagle had to be euthanized.

"This type of injury is common among injured hawks and owls but rare for an eagle," Wood noted.

The examiner found that the level of lead in the eagle's blood was 0.36 parts per million (ppm), which is higher than average and could have caused the eagle to become disoriented and lose coordination. The examiner said staff commonly find 0.1 to 0.2 ppm lead in eagles.

"We were able to agree on a few theories that could have caused this eagle's injury," Wood said. "He could have been feeding on a carcass near a road and flew up too late and partially been struck by a vehicle or the level of lead in his blood caused him to become disoriented and fly into something like a tree or power pole, causing the injury."

He and the examiner also agreed that the location where the eagle was found was unusual.

"We believe that he was injured elsewhere and finally became exhausted where he was found," he said.

Wood said the best thing for people to do when they find an injured animal is to call a conservation agent first before trying to assist the animal.

Many injured animals might take the advances as a threat to its life and try to fight back.


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Comments

Michael Williams April 18, 2014 | 7:08 a.m.

I'm guessing the eagle hit the vanes on a windmill.

Is that an acceptable cause of death, given that wind farms are a "greater good"?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 18, 2014 | 8:27 a.m.

Michael:

I've posted previously on this. The Sierra Club et al. are suing a power generating entity in California due to bird kills by windmills, apparently including one endangered or nearly endangered bird species. There have also been situations nationally involving deaths of bats.

I agree with the Sierra Club in this particular instance.

Should we now tear down all the mills? I don't think so. In the California situation they might have reduced bird kills with a different location, which is what the Sierra Club is contending.

What we have is a case of something some folks refuse to face: actions have consequences, intended or not. I am tired of this "all we need to do is this or that, and everything will then be perfect" syndrome. While we ponder windmills, birds and bats, consider that virtually all designs of products you encounter daily (your auto, your kitchen appliances, even the glass windows in your home) employ compromises of one sort or another, in order to make useful products most us us can afford.

(Report Comment)

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