A golden eagle perched atop a truck stop in Westley suddenly fell to the ground on Sept. 11.
People who saw the eagle fall went to her. She didn’t fight them or fly away, so it was clear there was something wrong. They put a blanket over her, put her in a box and took her to the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center in Hughson.
“Eagles aren’t known for falling off two-story buildings, so we are looking at some possible neurological problems,” said animal care manager Veronica Sandow.
She and board chairwoman Donna Burt said they believe the four-year-old eagle is suffering from west Nile virus or lead poisoning. They are awaiting blood test results.
West Nile is contracted through mosquitoes. Lead poisoning usually occurs in birds of prey when they eat animals that have been shot with lead shotgun pellets.
Female golden eagles usually weigh around 11 pounds, sometimes more, but this eagle was only eight pounds when she arrived at the center, Sandow said.
In the past week, she’s put on a pound and showed other promising improvements. She can now stand on her own and hold down food.
But the eagle still cannot fly, is unsteady on her feet and spends most of her time sleeping.
On Tuesday, Sandow hand-fed the eagle in the warm sunlight streaming into one of the center’s aviaries. Sandow had to open her beak a few times to put the deceased mouse in her mouth, but she didn’t have to massage it down her throat like she did a few days ago.
Burt and Sandow are hopeful they can rehabilitate the eagle and release her back into the wild, but she is still far from out of the woods.
“By the time an eagle gets here, they are usually pretty bad off,” Burt said, noting that the last one at the center was a bald eagle that had been electrocuted.
They do not spend time in populated areas, so by the time they are found and don’t fight being handled, they are very ill or injured.
Most of the eagles that survive spend the remainder of their lives in zoos or education facilities, because they are no longer able to fend for themselves in the wild.
The first and last eagle the center released back into the wild was in 1993.