Golden Eagle Ready for Release


Morro Bay, CA, February 9, 2014. Pacific Wildlife Care (PWC) plans to release a Golden Eagle on Wednesday or Thursday that was rescued in between Atascadero and Templeton in mid-September. The bird was rescued by a member of the public after being found unable to fly, likely after being hit by a car. The eagle was delivered to the Pacific Wildlife Care Rehabilitation Center in Morro Bay for examination by PWC’s fulltime wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Shannon Riggs. The eagle was found to have a fracture of the ulna, one of the large bones of the wing, but was in otherwise fairly good condition.

Golden eagles are the largest predatory birds in North America. They stand approximately three feet tall and have a wingspan of six to eight feet. Golden eagles feed primarily on medium-sized mammals, including rabbits, hares, and squirrels, but have been known to take prey items as large as coyotes and young goats and sheep. They also feed on carrion, such as road kill, which can lead to injury from cars, and is likely what happened to this eagle. Golden eagles are quite common in areas with open grassland and little tree cover. They also prefer hilly regions where thermals rising off of hills allow them to soar effortlessly. In other areas of the state, golden eagles are frequently injured by wind turbines which are placed in the same windy areas that are favored by these birds.

After several days of stabilization, including pain management, antibiotic administration, and hydration therapy, surgery was performed to repair the fracture. Pins were placed to stabilize the fracture and give it the best opportunity to heal, allow the wing to function normally, and the eagle to be released back into the wild. The eagle took a few days to get used to his surroundings at the PWC rehabilitation facility, but began to eat on his own soon after surgery. As healing progressed, his medications were decreased and eventually discontinued. The pins that had been placed surgically were removed in stages to gradually allow the bone to take on more of the forces applied by the wing’s movement. He was moved to a small outdoor enclosure to allow him to begin to exercise his wing on his own.

By November, the injured wing seemed to have healed well. The joints of the wing had normal movement and the bird was strong and active. It was time to test the bird’s flight ability, the last step in determining if he would be released. Pacific Wildlife Care does not have a raptor flight cage of sufficient length to flight condition such a large bird. The Ojai Raptor Center, which has a 230’ flight cage, was contacted and they were generous enough to allow the use of their lar flight for this bird. He was transferred to the Ojai Raptor Center facility in mid-December, where he was able to exercise and regain the strength lost following his injury and time in rehabilitation, strength needed to be able to soar and hunt normally in the wild.

After nearly two months, the Ojai Raptor Center determined that the bird is flying very well and ready for release. Within the next week, the bird will be transported from Ojai back to Morro Bay, where he will be given a final examination before his release in Atascadero shortly thereafter.

Pacific Wildlife Care receives no regular government funding. It is a 501(c) 3 organization with the tax ID number of 77-0196350. Tax-deductible donations, and volunteers would be very welcome, at our website!

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