Plastic surgeon concludes eagle's head wound was a burn

By The Associated Press | Posted - Jul. 19, 2017 at 9:41 a.m.



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ELMWOOD, Neb. (AP) — A plastic surgeon has determined that a mysterious head wound on a bald eagle found in southeast Nebraska was an electrical burn.

Fishermen spotted the ailing, underweight bird on the ground south of Syracuse in late May. There were no feathers on its head — just a scab. The anglers reported it to a state conservation officer, who took it to Fontenelle Forest's Raptor Recovery center near Elmwood.

The malady stumped experts at the center as they began nursing the eagle back to health. Rehabilitation manager Betsy Finch sent photos of it to veterinarians and raptor experts across the country. They, too, were perplexed.

Dr. Coleen Stice concluded it was an electrical burn, possibly suffered from hitting an electrical wire. She volunteered some time away from her people practice to remove the scab from the eagle's head Sunday during a 30-minute procedure under anesthesia at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo.

Her husband, Bob Wells, said he and Stice both volunteer at Fontenelle Forest. Stice has provided limited medical assistance to animals in the past year, Wells said, but the scab removal was the first time she's worked on an eagle.

The future treatment plan calls for Stice to attempt a skin graft in a couple of weeks, using healthy skin removed from elsewhere on the bird. If the graft is successful, the bird would regain the feathers it needs on its head before being released back into the wild, Finch said. Without feathers, the bird could suffer severe sunburn.

For now, recovery center staffers will continue their efforts to get the adult male fit for flight.

"He's eating and gaining weight and he's getting stronger," Finch said. "He's hard to handle anymore."

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The Associated Press

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