Wildlife Center of Virginia find effective impact on rehab care for eagles

Published: Jun. 20, 2023 at 6:57 PM EDT
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WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) -June 20 is National American Bald Eagle Day and the nonprofit in Waynesboro, the Wildlife Center of Virginia, is acknowledging the impact and progress made from rehabilitation in all animals, but especially eagles today. Rehabilitation happens after veterinary treatment that strengthens the bird’s entire physical being to be self-sustainable.

The efforts from this nonprofit got a potent pesticide, carbofuran, that brought in its first eagle banned in Virginia and then across the United States through a campaign that resulted in a policy change. The Wildlife Center confirmed the bald eagle has not been on an endangered species list for a number of years now.

The organization’s Outreach Public Affairs Manager, Alex Wehrung shared that the health of an ecosystem directly depends on the health of wildlife, which depends on the health of humans in a concept known as “one health”.

The rehabilitation for eagles is the opportune time this bird can regain their physical strength, and stamina. They are not ready to go back into a healthy environment in the wild until they can prove natural skills like landing on a perch and catching their own prey. The Wildlife Center knows the rehabilitation process is vital to keeping the cycle in good motion.

“When one is healthy, it supports the others; when it is unhealthy, it can be detrimental to the others — so the rehabilitation of wildlife, period, is useful in maintaining the health of the environment and for humans,” Wehrung said.

Most eagles have had to migrate inland instead of being on the coast. The Wildlife Center found lead toxicosis (poisoning) is a major factor in eagles going into its hospital but more because of lead poisoning. Among the average 45 individual eagle patients admitted to its hospital each year, the lead poisoning was inferred to be found while scavenging at landfills, not because they were shot by hunters.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia has clearance to rehabilitate animals through the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and has been providing full rehabilitative care to eagles since 1985. The staff’s atmosphere provides the capability to rear baby eagles, nestlings, and eaglets, to prepare them for the wild as well as nurture adult eagles back to health where the numbers have shown the care to be viable.

Biologists from DWR have equipped a dozen eagles with solar-powered tracking systems in an ongoing research project. The Wildlife Center of Virginia has learned the takeaway is that rehabilitative care is effective, allowing eagles can go on to live healthy and productive lives — contributing to the eagle population in the country and ecosystem as a whole.

All visuals were shown courtesy of the Wildlife Center of Virginia. Anyone interested in learning more about or supporting the nonprofit’s work is encouraged to check out the progress online.