The healing hands at the UC Davis Veterinary School have returned a badly mangled bald eagle to the wild.
The male eagle was found in extremely bad shape along a highway in Modoc County, 75 miles east of Mt. Shasta, in early May. He was thin and weak, weighing 6.8 pounds.
The injuries to the national bird of America were myriad: fractures to his jaw, a bleeding eye, puncture wounds on his feet, fracture of his left wing and more. The cause of his injuries could not be determined, but they were “consistent with trauma,” according to the vet school.
The injuries were fairly recent and it was thought the bird could not be returned to the wild. Veterinarians began to tend to the eagle in hopes that he could be kept alive for educational purposes in a raptor exhibit.
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The eagle was provided fluids, pain reliever, antibiotics and antifungal therapy. Wounds were cleaned and surgery on his jaw was performed, pins being placed through the bone on both sides of his face with a bar connecting them. Five days later, an endoscopy was performed on the bird’s internal organs and a blood clot and inflammation were found, which were probably tied to trauma.
Six days post-surgery, the eagle was getting stronger, pecking at stethoscopes and gloves. He somehow rid himself of the bar and pins on his face, but they were reattached by veterinarians.
After two weeks, the bird was moved to the university’s raptor center. Puncture wounds and facial wounds were healing, thanks to daily cleaning. One side of his jaw was still unstable.
Vets still did not know if he would ever fly free again, because his beak was not correctly aligned and it was unclear how badly his wing was damaged. After two more weeks, his weight was up to 7.5 pounds.
He was growing stronger and his jaw looked good enough that the stabilizing pins and bar could be removed. The big bird was moved to a large flight cage, where he flew well after three weeks.
Handlers began working with him to increase his stamina and he gained another half pound. The decision was made that he could return to the wild.
The regal raptor was taken back to near where he was found. When the transport cage was opened, he flew again into the clear skies of Northern California.