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Local

Treatment has the Golden touch; ailing eagle found in Sterling shows signs of improvement

Bald Eagle 83, or "Golden Warrior" as she – or he – has been dubbed, continues to recover from lead poisoning, thanks to help from Hoo Haven.  The eagle was standing up on Sunday, which the ailing bird wasn't able to do previously.
Bald Eagle 83, or "Golden Warrior" as she – or he – has been dubbed, continues to recover from lead poisoning, thanks to help from Hoo Haven. The eagle was standing up on Sunday, which the ailing bird wasn't able to do previously.

STERLING – A bald eagle rescued Wednesday after falling repeatedly from the sky in Sterling is recovering from lead poisoning, Hoo Haven staff said.

Karen Herdklotz, director of the Durand animal rescue group, said Bald Eagle 83, or “Golden Warrior,” as the eagle has been nicknamed, was standing up on Sunday, which the ailing bird wasn’t able to do previously.

“He is still under chelation treatment and being tube-fed, but is looking much more bright-eyed. Saturday was the first day he was seizure-free. Sunday, he was standing for the first time. I offered him some fish, but he wasn’t ready yet,” Herdklotz said.

The bird’s gender still hasn’t been determined, but Herdklotz said she thinks it might be female, due to its size – female bald eagles are larger than the males.

People had seen the bald eagle fumble in flight throughout Sterling last week, falling from the sky several times and thrashing on the ground, causing bruising to its wings, before Greg Hunter with the Dixon Park District rescued it Wednesday afternoon in the 1400 block of Weaver Road. He took it to River Ridge Animal Hospital in Dixon for an initial evaluation.

Hoo Haven staff traveled to the University of Wisconsin to get special medication for the chelation therapy. An IV feeds a solution into the bird’s bloodstream that binds the heavy metal toxins so they can be flushed out via the eagle’s urine.

Though the treatment is taking effect, it’s still too soon to say how quickly the bird will completely recover.

The bird receives two injections a day, and will take the chelation treatment “until the lead levels come back negative,” Herdklotz said.

The bruising might take longer to heal, she said, since the bird’s been in a weakened state.

Like mammals, birds with lead poisoning suffer paralysis, lose their appetite, and struggle to stand. They can develop blindness, brain damage and organ failure.

No one’s sure how Golden Warrior was poisoned – it had no buckshot or other gunshot-related injuries, Herdklotz said, but the bird could have ingested buckshot from a carcass, eaten contaminated fish, or found a tainted water source.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has advised hunters to use copper instead of lead ammunition, noting that a fragment smaller than a grain of rice can be lethal to a bald eagle if ingested.

Herdklotz hopes the eagle can eventually be released back into the wild.

“When the lead levels are down to normal, then we’ll put her in a flight pen to make sure there’s no residual [lead],” Herdklotz said.

Go to facebook.com/hoohavenevents for updates on the eagle’s progress.

WANT TO HELP HOO HAVEN?

The nonprofit Hoo Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation and Rescue Center, 10823 Cleveland Road in Durand, is dedicated to rehabilitating and releasing, sick, injured and orphaned North American wildlife, and to educating the public on the importance of conservation efforts.

It relies heavily on grants, fundraisers and donations to meet its mission.

In fact, a wine-tasting fundraiser, hosted by Marshmallow, the organization's American white pelican, runs from 6 to 9 p.m. April 5 at the Prairie State Brewhouse, 200 Prairie St. in Rockford.

In addition to rubbing wings with Marshmallow, the only educational pelican for 900 miles, participants can sample wines, eat hors d'oeuvres and bid on auction items. Shirts, jewelry and pictures also will be available.

Tickets cost $50 and are available on its website; only a limited number will be available at the door. Reservations are requested by March 30.

Go to hoohaven.org or call 815-629-2212 for tickets, to donate or to volunteer.

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