Local veterinarian mends bald eagle

A bald eagle found in Gunnison this weekend was so sick and emaciated that state Division of Wildlife officers were able to carry the wild bird in-hand without a struggle.

“It turns out that he has liver issues and a bad bacterial infection,” said Paul Bingham, a Fruita veterinarian who treats thousands of wild animals, free of charge, each year.

The once-majestic bird was brought to Arrowhead Veterinary Hospital Monday. Bingham immediately started an intravenous system to replace fluids and nutrients. “We gave the IV to him until he wouldn’t let us do it anymore,” Bingham said.

After three days of around-the-clock care, the bird is starting to recover, now able to eat fish, stand upright and wrap its talons around a perch.

Bingham doesn’t think the bird has any broken bones, but he can’t be sure until the animal is strong enough to receive X-rays. He is also awaiting another blood test, which will determine if the bird has lead poisoning, a common ailment among raptors who eat fish with high lead content due to ingesting hooks or sinkers from anglers.

Bingham said the bird is probably a male, based on its size, and he expects it to make a quick recovery, depending on the results of some final tests.

“It feels good,” Bingham said, to know that he saved the life of one of North America’s most majestic animals and the symbol of our nation, “How could it not feel good, right?”

The bird will most likely be moved to the Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Silt early next week. It will probably spend most of the spring there in recovery before it is released back into the skies above the Gunnison area.

Last year, Bingham nursed nearly 7,000 wild animals back to health. The rescued animals included all kinds of different species including bear, deer, raccoons and antelope. Primarily, he treats wild birds such as great-horned owls, seagulls and falcons. Last month, he had a cougar “which was a little tricky” to take care of, he said. One of his favorites was an otter who needed his own pool.

“It’s wonderful,” Bingham said of taking care of the wild animals, “because we wouldn’t get to do stuff like this otherwise.”

“And we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t care,” he said, adding that the veterinary hospital doesn’t charge for the care of a wild animal.

Bingham recently left Redstone Veterinary Clinic in Grand Junction to open Arrowhead Veterinary Hospital, Inc., at 1620 L Road in Fruita.


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