Zoo News is Good News: One-Eyed, Lead-Poisoned Eagle Finds Home at Oregon Zoo

By Oregon Zoo StaffReetahkac

A one-eyed bald eagle from Wisconsin has taken up residence at the Oregon Zoo, joining Jack, another one-eyed rescue, in the Eagle Canyon habitat. Zoo caregivers hope the new bird — named Reetahkac (Pawnee for eagle) — will teach visitors about the detrimental impacts of lead ammunition on wildlife.

In late February, hikers in Wisconsin’s Vernon Wildlife Area spotted the 3-foot-tall eagle on the ground along their trail. Concerned that she might be unable to fly, they called local authorities, who dispatched a rescue team from the nearby Wildlife in Need Center.

An initial exam and a trip to Brook-Falls Veterinary Hospital showed the bird had sustained a deep puncture wound in her left eye. Wildlife experts believe the injury — which left Reetahkac blind in that eye and would prevent her from successfully surviving in the wild — occurred during a territory battle with another eagle.

The eagle also was also suffering from severe lead poisoning, attributed to a meal she ingested around the time of her rescue. She underwent five rounds of chelation therapy — a chemo-like treatment that helps remove lead from the body.

Although lead has been widely eliminated from paint, gasoline and water pipes, it remains the metal of choice for ammunition manufacturers. Eagles and other scavengers can ingest the toxin when they eat the remains of an animal that’s been shot with lead ammunition.

“Thanks to intervention, this eagle got a second chance, but its exposure to lead could have been prevented,” said Leland Brown, non-lead hunting education coordinator at the zoo. “When hunters choose non-lead ammunition, they’re helping scavenging wildlife stay healthy by keeping lead out of the environment.”

The two bald eagles can be distinguished by their eyes: Reetahkac is missing her left eye and Jack is missing his right.

To learn more, visit www.oregonzoo.org