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Eagle Found Lifeless but Still Breathing

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Southwest Wildlife Foundation of Utah

*** FAQ Follows Description ***

On September 26th, 2019 Martin was called about a Golden Eagle seen along the side of a road that was not moving. After traveling out about 40 miles, Martin found the Golden Eagle as described, just laying beside the road showing little signs of awareness.

Upon picking up the Golden Eagle, Martin immediately noticed how thin he was and thought starvation was the most likely cause of his condition. Martin quickly put the eagle in a kennel and headed back the the rescue center. Getting fluids and some food into the eagle was top priority and Martin hoped the eagle would survive that long.

Once home, Martin quickly prepared a small meal and was pleased to find the eagle was still alive. The first feeding was quite difficult as the eagle was so weak and struggled to swallow. Once the eagle was fed a small meal, he was taken to a small chamber to rest undisturbed. The eagle took the same lifeless position laying on the dirt in the chamber.

Martin stayed up all night with the eagle, making frequent visits to feed and check on the bird. Unfortunately, the eagle passed away early the next morning.

Martin said sometimes they arrive already dead but still breathing.

* Why are Eagles starving?
It is not easy in the wild, it is estimated nearly 80% of raptors don't survive their first year. There are many obstacles, from man made to genetics to bad luck. Some birds are just not as good of hunters as others. If they do not get enough nourishment, they hunt even more poorly and struggle all the more. To survive in the wild they need to be in top physical condition.

* Why can't you treat the eagle on the spot?
We receive no state or federal funding. Unfortunately, we cannot be a wildlife ambulance service, there are too many variables with the sheer number of wildlife species we deal with to have everything required to treat them on site. Many of the medications require refrigeration which is not practical travel with. Situations are always different, and many times it would not be safe to treat the animals where found. Bringing them back to the center is much safer and more efficient.

* Why didn't the eagle go to a veterinarian?
Martin is a federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator with over 50 years experience. Generally, in regards to wildlife, veterinarians refer to him.

* Why wasn't the eagle given an IV?
Most of the decisions Martin faces are not solely based in medical procedures. Wild animals are extremely stressed in captivity, sometimes this alone can make them give up. The use of IV is an invasive medical procedure which taxes the animal further and requires additional invasive procedures of sedation.

In addition, there is the problem of time, resources and expenses. We work with many local veterinarians who provide their services at cost which means if we take everything to the vets we would overburden them to the point that would not longer be able offer their services. Martin has to be able to most of his veterinary work himself very much like the livestock industry do most of their veterinary work themselves.

The eagle was given plenty of fluids and treated throughout the night, much of which was not shown in this relatively short video. Martin spent the whole night evaluating best options for the eagle. It is likely if the eagle had been found even a few hours sooner, it may have survived. As Martin said, "sometimes they arrive already dead but still breathing".

* Why was the eagle fed so much?
In eagle meal terms, a few small mice is not a lot. The food only sits in the crop, so does not affect the digestive system if it cannot process the food. The crop was no where near full. Most animals, especially ones that are so weak, will not feed themselves in captivity, so Martin must feed them. Generally, in birds that recover, this only needs to be a done a few times.

* Why isn't a starved wild Golden Eagle treated the same way as a starved Human Being?
It's not a human being, it's not a primate, it is a bird of prey. Their digestive systems are completely different and on top of all that they are wild Apex predators that need to be handled as wild Apex predators.

Any form of captivity is very stressful and some will simply not tolerate it or just decide to give up. They are full of fear and do not understand what is going on.

This fear and stress is a major factor in determining types of treatment to help them. Unlike humans, hospitalization is not as viable of option. Besides the stress factor, there is also sheer volume of animals in need and lack of resources to pay for days or weeks of far more invasive and stressful procedures that are not necessarily more successful.

* Why are comments off?
We try to keep our videos and even comments on topic and suitable for classroom use. As the video grew in popularity it was subject to more and more misinformation, vitriol, and trolls in the comments.

posted by diegorlicitraf2