A Convocation of Eagles

What do the dates; August 7th, September 21st, and October 20th have in common?  Well, each of these days the Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre received a new patient, with each those being an eagle. It started with the Golden Eagles arrival from Watson Lake, followed by a Bald Eagle from Jake’s Corner, and another Bald Eagle from Mayo.  While an arrival of an animal, into the centre for care by the team at the Preserve, isn’t distinctive; it is unusual to receive an influx of eagles in the fall.

Seen from left to right is the Golden Eagle, the younger Bald Eagle with scapular injury from Jake’s Corner, and the older Bald Eagle with carpal infection from Mayo.

Over the years, the Rehabilitation Centre has admitted many eagles – both golden and bald. Some of these occasions have occurred to eaglets, some adults. Some of these have been due to injury to the individual – like from a nest blowing over in strong winds (they’re nests are built over years and with time can weigh hundreds of pounds, which for our small northern trees can sometimes be just too much to support).[1]https://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/eagle-nesting-young/ Often times, we do not know the circumstances around an animals ailment but can gain insight from x-rays as to why an animal might be behaving differently than we might expect – like the successful juvenile bald eagle rehabilitation from summer 2020. A common thread for many of these eagles is admittance timing – usually in the Spring and Summer. 
Several months have passed since the three birds Fall time admittance. This time has allowed each eagle recovery, to some degree but there’s much road ahead still for them each. We’ll start first with the younger, (white with brown head) Bald Eagle from Jake’s Corner.  A fracture to the scapular caused the animal to be flightless in the wild. The injury has healed. The wing was wrapped for 2 months to immobilize the wing but this does cause muscle atrophy – just like in humans who are casted following a bone break. The eagle was contained in a small aviary to help reduce its movements to maintain fracture alignment and eventual bone fusion.
Once this stage of recovery was met, the eagle was moved into the large aviary. This is an important phase of the recovery process for the bird –  movement and flight tests. This individual can fly, and will spend the rest of the winter building up flight muscles in the aviary to support its probable return to the wild in the spring!
The older (full white head) Bald Eagle who suffered from severe chronic infection of the right carpal joint was initially treated with a small hope that even though the integrity of the joint was compromised the eagle might still be able to fly well enough and survive in the wild after the infection was controlled and the wing healed. However, based on most current radiographic imaging and physical exam, done by Dr. Maria Hallock and the Animal Care team, the prognosis is poor. While the infection is cleared and the joint has healed, its integrity is compromised – this will prevent the eagle from being able to fly uninhibited. Observations of the animal in the large aviary has seen it able to gain lift up to 6 feet and fly off the perch within the aviary but unable to maintain latitude for more than 20 feet. 
The Preserve will continue to care for this individaul through the remainder of the winter. We will continue to monitor and observe its behaviour.
Finally, the Golden Eagle has had the longest and most challenging recovery of the three. While we are happy to report that the left foot has recovered from the infection due to porcupine quills; the right foot is severely compromised due to the infection. This has resulted in multiple bone dissolution and loss of the skeletal and ligamentous integrity of the foot and consequently loss of its function. The bird can perch but cannot grasp effectively with the right foot. The bird still has a long way to its full recovery. At this time it does not look probable for the bird to be released back into the wild sucessfully due to this loss of functionality in the foot – an important tool for a bird of bird such as this to capture its food to survive.
The x-ray image of the Golden Eagle’s feet shows significantly compromised structure between the right and the left. The left foot was imaged with the banadaging on his feet still. The Golden Eagle is observed to be perching, and with the other birds, more and more. This is a postive progression from when he was often observed resting on stomache and on the ground, rathern than higher perch.
Each of these birds are on their own path to recovery. The Preserve continues to provide care through, mostly now, feeding and observation. These birds eat a lot! If you are able to support the ongoing care of these animals please consider donating to the Wildlife Rehabiliation and Resaearch Centre Fund.

While we progress through winter and meet spring the Preserve’s Animal Care team will reevaluate each individual and their release back to the wild or the alternative. The alternatives could include remaining at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve to live out their life and offer education and an opportunity to personally connect with such a magnificent creature. This will be a significant investment, up to a 25 year commitment, given the birds average lifespan and food requirements, however that the Preserve may not be able to provide this given the expenses. Another alternative may be to place them in another animal care facility or CAZA accredited institution.  Time will tell, to be continued . . .

Photo credits:  L. Caskenette
Lindsay Caskenette

Lindsay Caskenette

Manager of Visitor Services

Lindsay joined the Wildlife Preserve team March 2014. Originally from Ontario, she came to the Yukon in search of new adventures and new career challenges. Lindsay holds a degree in Environmental Studies with honours from Wilfrid Laurier University and brings with her a strong passion to share what nature, animals and the environment can teach us.

867-456-7400
lindsay@yukonwildlife.ca

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1 Comment

  1. Elle

    Thank you so much for such an enjoyable article! We had seen the eagles when we were last at the Preserve so it was great to read up on what is going on for each of them.

    Reply

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References

1 https://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/eagle-nesting-young/