Eagle brought in for examination, dies at Wildlife Center | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Eagle brought in for examination, dies at Wildlife Center

Susan Wood

At a time when eagles are staging a dramatic comeback, an emaciated golden eagle found lying on the side of a road in Bishop, Calif., didn’t make it.

The eagle was taken to the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Center over a week ago but didn’t survive the night, Executive Director Cheryl Millham confirmed Thursday.

The large female bird died from a massive infection prompted by a wound on the back side of a wing with a compound fracture, the center’s veterinarian Kevin Willets said. It was believed to have been hurt for a long time.

“It was sad. She was a beautiful bird,” Millham said.

When the bird came in, she was put on antibiotics, but the feeling among Millham and Willets is that the under 7-pound bird was too far gone. A healthy bird would have weighed at least 12 pounds.

The bird, under stress from its injury, sickness and being handled, showed no evidence of a gunshot wound.

“I don’t know how long it was down, but it was operating on a negative energy balance, and they’ve got to be eating all the time this time of year,” Willets said.

He suspects the eagle collided with something else moving in the opposite direction.

If she had to venture a guess, U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist Maureen Gaffney thinks chances are great that’s what happened.

“If it was already weakened by a state of hunger and emaciation, then there’s often nothing you can do,” she said.

“Sometimes they hang out on low fence posts and can’t get enough speed to rise above the cars,” Gaffney said of the predatory birds out on the prowl.

Before they nest, they try to build up energy reserves to sustain them through the winter season, especially the females. Nesting season tends to start in about a month.

And if the number of incidents rising with the increased population is any indication, more eagles colliding with cars shouldn’t be a surprise.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit reported a record number of birds tallied during the eagle count held each year.

This January, 13 adults and two juvenile bald eagles were counted, Gaffney said.

Twenty-seven surveyors covered an area spanning the lake, from Tahoe City to Zephyr Cove. The majority were spotted in the Camp Richardson area, Gaffney added.

By contrast, eight adults and no juveniles were counted in the year prior.

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