Tales of E8: SWFL Eagle Cam Star on the Mend
June 22, 2016
By: Katie Egan
E8 is a survivor.
The young American bald eagle endured a stray fishing line in February that became snarled around his leg. Then there’s the broken femur fracture last month after the young eaglet was pushed off a branch by a screech owl.
The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, where E8 has spent most of his young life, hopes the 145-day-old trooper’s lucky streak can continue.
E8 needs a heavy dose of antibiotics to treat an infection in the injured bone.
However, bird bones are some of the hardest things to treat with heavy drugs, further complicating E8’s recovery. Three different types of “very bad bacteria” were cultured from his infected bone, said CROW hospital director, Heather Barron.
“They are what we call multi-drug resistant,” she explained.
Antibiotics don’t always penetrate into the bone very well and unlike humans, they’re more intricately connected so doctors have to be especially careful.
“It’s a complicated scenario the way birds’ bones work,” Barron said. “The side bone and upper arm bone communicate with the respiratory system.”
Since 2012, the nation has tuned in to watch Southwest Florida stars, Ozzie and Harriet, the American bald eagle power couple viewers can check in with 24 hours a day on Southwest Florida’s Eagle Cam, and one-half of E8’s DNA. But since Ozzie’s death, E8’s father, M15, has taken up residence in the North Fort Myers nest.
If E8 can be released back into the wild, he’s likely past the age where he’ll have any interest in going back there, Barron said.
Though if he is released, he will be released back into the same area.
On May 13, a juvenile American bald eagle was found near the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam, and brought to CROW Clinic.
It was ‘strongly’ believed to be E8 because of the condition it was in and where it was found. According to CROW staff, when he showed up, the eagle was very thin, dehydrated and extremely weak.
On May 14, radiographs showed good pin placement in E8’s right leg to repair the femur fracture. He went on a pain medication regime, had tons of supportive care and was placed on strict cage rest.
“To see him move (now), you wouldn’t know there’s anything wrong with him,” Barron said.
E8 and his brother E7 were resting on a branch around 3:30 a.m. May 7 in their nest, reports say, when the screech owl allegedly swooped down and knocked the two fledglings off their perch. E8, was transferred to one of CROW’s outdoor flight enclosures on June 1.
And since moving to the outdoor locale, reports say he’s been perching, vocalizing and taking small flights.
Barron says the fracture was about a week old when CROW found him. She remembers all of his tendons and muscles were contracted up, very tight.
“They had to be sort of stretched back out,” she said.
His injured leg is still a tiny fraction shorter than the other one, but Barron doesn’t think it will impede his ability to hunt and survive in the wild.
His wound is still healing, she said, but otherwise, E8 is bright and alert and eating very well, and flying around his cage.
The antibiotics he’s on are a different type of challenge.
A lot is unknown and there can also be potential powerful side effects.
“In particular, it’s very difficult on the kidneys,” Barron said.
But she says right now E8 is doing just fine. Staff makes sure he stays hydrated, which helps make sure his kidneys stay healthy. It’s too early to tell whether E8 will return to the great open air.
But on Thursday, CROW will know more.
They’ll take a culture from the inside of the infected bone and that will tell them if the infection is under control So far E8 has been on the antibiotic, Amikacin, for 11 days.
Usually, Barron said, a normal cycle for the drug lasts about 4-6 weeks.
“But we’re hoping because that particular type of drug is so difficult on the kidneys, we can get the injection under control sooner,” she said.
If the antibiotics do their job without harming E8’s kidneys, CROW will need to make sure he is a strong flyer and he’ll have to show that he’s capable of hunting on his own before he can be integrated back into the wild.
Barron said it might still take a few weeks to build up his strength.
“He’s still getting physical therapy on his leg,” she said.
The process is remarkably similar to the same grueling regimen humans go through. First doctors give E8 something to relax, like a Valium.
Then he’ll get pain medication, Barron said, if the session is going to be extra painful.
“It’s just like we do it in people,” she said. “We’ll work out his full range of motion. Use hot or cold packs.”
In February, he got his left leg stuck in fishing wire.
The eagle cam was temporarily shut off and E8 was recued and brought to CROW, the first time staff became acquainted with the young fighter bird.
At the time, x-rays told doctors he didn’t break any bones, but he did show signs of dehydration and weight loss.
“We get a lot of eagles,” Barron said.
CROW gets one to two dozen a year.
This year they’ve already seen 10.
CROW wants to put a federal leg band on E8 if he’s released so they can identify him in the future.
They doesn’t have a license to put a band on E8, but Barron said she’s thinking about reaching out to other places like the Audubon Society for help.
However, someone will have to be able to get close enough to read the band’s number.
“If he’s found dead or deceased,” Barron said. “We’ll know for sure it was him.”
Otherwise, she said, “It’s an eagle wearing a band that really looks like him.”
But spotting E8 will probably be pretty easy.
“At least for a while after his release,” Barron said. “Because one leg is slightly shorter than the other.”
• Harriet has larger eyes that are also lighter in color
• Female eagles are larger than males, so Harriet is the larger of the two
• M15 has a short, dark stripe on one of his middle tail feather
• M15 has feathers between his beak and eyes, while Harriet does not
• M15’s beak is smaller and has a small dot on the right side