Wildlife Center of Virginia to release Bald Eagle in Virginia Beach

wildlife-center2The Wildlife Center of Virginia, a leading teaching and research hospital for native wildlife, will release a Bald Eagle on Thursday, April 25 at 2:00 p.m. at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach.

The release is free and open to the public.  Please meet at the Ashville Bridge Creek Environmental Education Center, 3022 New Bridge Road, Virginia Beach.  Individuals who wish to attend are asked to RSVP to the Center at ksluiter@wildlifecenter.org.  

Participating in the release will be Dr. Dave McRuer, Director of Veterinary Medicine at the Wildlife Center and one of the veterinarians who treated this eagle.

This Bald Eagle – an immature bird, and likely a male – was brought to the Wildlife Center in Waynesboro on March 9 and assigned Patient Number 13-0174 – the 174th patient of 2013.  The volunteer transporter also brought four dead eagles from the same rescue site – near Birdsnest in Northampton County on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  The unusual circumstances surrounding this eagle’s rescue and the death of the four other birds are being investigated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Dr. Dana Tedesco, the Center’s veterinary intern, gave the Bald Eagle a complete physical examination on March 9, including radiographs, initial blood work, and a lead test.  The eagle had elevated lead levels; radiographs also revealed multiple metal fragments in the bird’s digestive tract.  Chelation therapy [designed to lower lead levels] was started; Dr. Dana also started a “Metamucil slurry” tube-feeding plan so that the metal fragments would move quickly through the eagle’s digestive system.

By March 13, the eagle was showing improvement and was moved to one of the Center’s outdoor flight pens.  The Center’s rehabilitation staff has been exercising the eagle in outdoor flight pens, gradually building up the bird’s stamina.  During its recovery, the eagle has been one of the patients featured on Critter Cam, a live online broadcast through the Center’s website.  The eagle is flying well; after reviewing results from blood work done on April 22, Center veterinarians have cleared #13-0174 for release.

It is estimated that the Bald Eagle population of North America numbered about half a million before European settlement.  With the loss of habitat, hunting, and the effects of DDT and other pesticides, the U.S. eagle population plummeted.  In 1977, for example, there were fewer than 50 Bald Eagle nests in Virginia.

Today, the Bald Eagle population in Virginia is on the rebound.  There are now more than 1,000 active Bald Eagle nests in the Commonwealth.

Since its founding in 1982, the Wildlife Center has treated scores of Bald Eagles, done extensive studies of environmental factors that affect eagles and other wildlife, and worked to reform laws and regulations to strengthen the protection afforded to Bald Eagles.

Every year, about 2,600 animals – ranging from Bald Eagles to chipmunks – are brought to the Wildlife Center for care.  “The goal of the Center is to restore our patients to health and return as many as possible to the wild,” Wildlife Center President and Co-founder Ed Clark has said.  “At the WildlifeCenter, we treat to release.”

The Wildlife Center of Virginia is an internationally acclaimed teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine.  Since its founding in 1982, the nonprofit Center has cared for more than 60,000 wild animals, representing 200 species of native birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.  The Center’s public education programs share insights gained through the care of injured and orphaned wildlife, in hopes of reducing human damage to wildlife.

In July 2011, the Center launched Critter Cam, which has allowed wildlife enthusiasts around the world to watch a variety of Center patients, including #13-0174.  During its first year of operation, the Critter Cam site was visited more than two million times.  A link to Critter Cam may be found on the Center’s homepage – www.wildlifecenter.org.

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is one of more than 550 refuges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Back Bay NWR contains more than 9,100 acres; habitats include beach, dunes, woodlands, farm fields, and marshes.  Back Bay NWR will mark its 75th anniversary on June 8.  Additional information about Back Bay is available at http://www.fws.gov/refuge/back_bay/

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