Wounded bald eagle found in Petaluma rescued, requires surgery

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Wounded by a pellet from a gun and poisoned with lead, a bald eagle discovered in east Petaluma last week is now the subject of a campaign to raise an estimated $10,000 to treat the crippled bird and return it to the skies.

“We’re all hoping the surgery will go well and the eagle will be able to be released back into the wild where it belongs,” said Danielle McGuire, director of animal care for Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue.

Investigators with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have opened a probe into the shooting, which is a federal crime.

The downed bird was discovered Jan. 31 near Corona Road, McGuire said. Two members of the rescue group retrieved the animal, donning thick leather gloves to protect themselves from the eagle’s sharp talons and beak. The bird was quickly placed in a quiet enclosure and transported to the nonprofit group’s facility, McGuire said.

“You always want to do the rescue as quick as possible to reduce the stress to the animal,” McGuire said. “The bird was given some time to decompress and once that happened, our medical staff did a medical examination and it was determined that the bird had a possible broken wing.”

An X-ray showed the pellet had shattered a bone in the eagle’s right wing, McGuire said. Blood work revealed the bald eagle was also suffering from lead poisoning, something that can happen when eagles eat from carcasses of animals shot with lead bullets, McGuire said.

The bird was delivered by car to UC Davis Veterinary Hospital early Thursday morning, where it was scheduled to undergo surgery once staff deemed it safe, said Doris Duncan, executive director of Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue.

The group is attempting to raise money to help pay for the surgery, lead toxicity treatment and the weekslong recovery needed to ensure the bald eagle can fly on its own again, Duncan said. Altogether, the care is expected to cost about $10,000, she said.

“It’s a very timely process,” Duncan said.

The nonprofit had received about $3,700 in donations for the bird’s recovery as of Thursday afternoon, Duncan said. Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue was additionally offering an unspecified reward for anyone with information that led U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents to find the person responsible for the eagle’s injuries, she added.

It is not clear what type of gun was used to shoot the bird, Duncan said.

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act bans anyone from wounding, killing or trading either species, or their eggs. Violations can be punished with a maximum fine of $5,000 or a year of prison, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. A second conviction could double the fine and prison time.

Investigators with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sacramento law enforcement unit can be reached at 916-569-8476. Donations can be made at the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue’s website or Facebook page.

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