On January 29, the eaglets of the North Fort Myers Eagle Camera nest, also known as E17 and E18, were observed having eye issues. Concerned members of the public and observers of the North Fort Myers nest reported the eaglets’ eyes were matted shut. After discussion with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, wildlife professionals at CROW were given approval to go into the nest and admit the eaglets for treatment.
Upon arrival at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, veterinarians examined the eaglets and found them to have visible signs of eye irritation. During the examination, the eaglets’ eyes were swollen. The top and bottom eyelids had adhered shut. Veterinarians suspected this could be the result of a few different types of bacterial or viral infection, but needed lab results to be certain of which was affecting them. The eaglets were given antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, and were transferred into rehabilitative care.
They were placed on a feeding plan with meals four times a day. Rehabilitation staff utilized a camouflage face cover to avoid human-imprinting. The eaglets continued to receive supportive care, eye drops, and antibiotics. Over the next few days, their eyes started to clear up, open, and they had been gaining weight appropriately.
On February 4, hospital staff found the eaglets’ complete blood counts to be within normal limits and arranged for renesting. On the morning of February 5, with the help of a bucket truck from Joshua Tree Inc., E17 and E18 were placed back in their nest at the North Fort Myers location.
After 7 days of care, the eaglets’ eyes had healed and Harriett and M15 reunited with their babies. The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) lab test was found to be positive for Avian chlamydiosis. Avian chlamydiosis is a bacterial disease caused by Chlamydophila psittaci (C. psittaci), which is carried commonly by birds. The spread occurs mainly through breathing in dust containing dried saliva, feathers, mucous, and droppings from infected birds. This disease can also spread to humans, causing pneumonia. There are many such diseases, called zoonotic diseases, seen in our hospital and our staff follows extensive cleaning and disinfectant protocols with all patients to prevent the spread of these potentially infectious diseases to themselves and other patients.
Treatment is not always 100% effective at clearing an infection, so Avian chlamydiosis could return after treatment or the eaglets could be re-infected with a different strain of C. psittaci. Thankfully as the eaglets continue to grow, their immune systems become stronger which will help reduce the chance of clinical symptoms appearing in the future.
“We are glad to have been able to provide urgent medical care for these precious eaglets and contribute to the knowledge base of diseases and appropriate treatment of eagles in our area. We are grateful for the support offered by USFWS, FL FWC, the Pritchetts, and the public who watch over this special eagle family so carefully. Finally, we are thankful that there are two new eggs in the nest this year to carry on the legacy of supermom eagle Harriet!” states Dr. Heather Barron, Medical & Research Director at CROW.
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About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond. Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to www.crowclinic.org. If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.