Bald eagle’s bill repaired

Fixator in place following mandible surgery will stabilize the fracture and help align the slightly offset beak.

This time of year, along the California-Oregon border, bald eagles are preparing to make their annual pilgrimage to the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Luckily for one bald eagle, he won’t miss the enclave.

On Sept. 7, the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) announced the successful repair of a 6.8-pound, male bald eagle’s bill after he was transferred to the UC Davis veterinary hospital from Shasta Wildlife Rescue several months ago. The bird was released back into the wild near the same area where he was found, about 75 miles east of Mount Shasta in northeastern California.

When the bird arrived at UC Davis, he had extensive injuries: fractures of both the left and right side of his jaw, with exposed bone of the right mandible; hemorrhage in the left eye; puncture wounds on both feet; healing fracture of the left proximal humerus; air sacculitis (inflammation of air sacs); and puncture wounds over the left coxofemoral joint.

Surgery was performed on his lower jaw to repair the fracture on the right side, and pins were placed through the bone on both sides of the fracture and connected with a metal bar (fixator) adjacent to the eagle’s face. The fracture on the left mandible was determined to be stable enough that it did not require surgery. The fixator was adjusted to also align the slightly offset beak.

A later endoscopy revealed plaques and increased vasculature consistent with air sacculitis and a blood clot adhered to the air sac membrane. Biopsies of the plaques and blood clot, revealed cells associated with an inflammatory process that was probably associated to the trauma.

Photo credit: University of California, Davis

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