Rare sight: lethargic bald eagle found on hiking trail

Posted at 8:02 PM, Sep 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-20 23:02:07-04

Bird doctors are trying to figure out why a bald eagle ended up in the brush on an East Couny trail, barely able to move.

“It seems pretty calm. They should not be," said Dr. Todd Cecil of the Pet Emergency & Specialty Center in La Mesa.

A hiker brought the adult bird in Tuesday morning after finding him on a trail in Ramona. This bald eagle is not one of four tagged in the county.

“He was so lethargic, he was able to take off his jacket and gently wrap the eagle in it, and carry it out of the trail,” said Ali Crumpacker, director of The Fund For Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona.

On Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Cecil went about trying to figure out why the bird is ill.

The bird's heart rate checks out, and so does the mouth.

“If you look inside his mouth, it’s pretty pink in there. No lesions in here."

His wings are another story.           

“It's kind of tattered a bit, but he may have been on the ground longer than we thought he had,” said Dr. Cecil.

A closer look reveals something else.                     

One wing is a “little loose” but Dr. Cecil can't feel any fractures on the wing.

As for the looseness, “that might just because he's debilitated and weak,” said Dr. Cecil.

Minutes later, the eagle was sedated for blood work and x-rays.

Immediately, the bird doctor determines the eagle is starving because of the lack of food in his system.

One cause is ruled out.

“No obvious signs of trauma,” said Dr. Cecil.

There are also no metal objects and no signs of lead poisoning.

“His spleen is a little big that can be infection or stress,” said Dr. Cecil.

Among the possibilities, are viral diseases like West Nile.

“The good news is we've ruled out things. The bad news: I don't think we've ruled anything in,” said Dr. Cecil.

Among the other possibilities: the bald eagle struck something that caused internal bruising.