PORTLAND -- One of seven bald eagles sickened after consuming poison was released Wednesday after getting rehabilitated by the Portland Audubon Society.
The year-old bald eagle fed on two carcasses of horses that had been euthanized near Winlock, Wash. The horses had been put down with a barbiturate called Euthasol and then improperly disposed of, said Audubon operations manager Lacy Campbell.
The eagle recovered under the Audubon Society's care and was eventually released Wednesday around 1 p.m., near Winlock.
“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.
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, and other animals, as well, she said.
“All animals will scavenge. That includes your dog, my dog, cats and birds of prey,” she added.
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 soon. The others 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.