PORTLAND -- One of seven eagles sickened after eating a euthanized horse carcass near Winlock, Wash. will be released Wednesday by the Portland Audubon Society.
The year-old eagle had fed on two horses that had been put down with a barbiturate called Euthasol, said Audubon operations manager Lacy Campbell.
The eagle recovered under the audubon society's care and will be released Wednesday around 1 p.m., at 123 Harkins Road near Winlock. The public was invited to come and watch.
“Euthasol acts as a sedative at lower doses, which is why the juvenile eagle was found on the ground and unable to fly,” said Campbell. “While the barbiturate worked its way out of his system, we kept the bird hydrated, provided regular meals, and kept him isolated to minimize stress.”
The other six eagles were treated at the West Sound Wildlife Center on Bainbridge Island,Wash.
The birds were spotted on the ground near Winlock, Wash., by a woman named Sharon.
She couldn't believe what she saw when she took a walk on her Lewis County property near Winlock last Friday.
She found one of what turned out to be seven beautiful bald eagles - all near death.
“I got the binoculars, was unable to tell what it was," she said. "We didn't realize what the culprit was -- why they were so sick. It was heart-wrenching, wanting them to open their eyes and stay breathing so we could get them to the people who could help us.”
A worker with Raindancer Wild Bird Rescue in Olympia brought the eagles to West Sound Wildlife Center, where a team of 15 volunteers have been working on the birds for days. They were all in critical condition.
Some of the eagles were vomiting and convulsing while the most critical were unconscious and unresponsive.
Workers at West Sound Wildlife Center believe the eagles ate meat from two dead horses that had been euthanized with a strong poison. However, those horses had not been properly disposed of, and were left to rot where other animals could eat them.
The volunteer vets saved all of the birds. The eagles had likely eaten enough poison to kill a horse, vets said.
“It's miraculous that they're even here,” said Dr. Alicia Bye.
Just a few more bites would've killed the eagles, said Bye, and other animals, as well.
“All animals will scavenge. That includes your dog, my dog, cats and birds of prey,” she said.
They are all quite young, just two or three years old. They don't even have the telltale white feathers on their heads yet.
Two of the birds were recovering well and could be released within the next 48 hours. The others, however, were given about a 50-50 chance of survival.
“What’s so sad, is that this was completely avoidable,” said Mike Pratt, the shelter’s director of wildlife services.
Since bald eagles are a protected species, federal wildlife authorities are now investigating this case. If a horse owner is responsible for the birds getting sick, he could face a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.
“We could've lost them all,” said Sharon Thomas. “And who's to say how many more have been affected?”
The rescue and recovery effort will cost about $3,000, according the Lisa Horn, the shelter’s executive director. You can help by making a donation at www.westsoundwildlfe.org.