7 eagles believed to have become sick after eating tainted horse meat

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By Steve Kiggins,

Q13 FOX News reporter

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. — A half-dozen bald eagles found close to death in Lewis County are being nursed back to health at the West Sound Wildlife Shelter — and the culprit appears to be tainted horse meat.

The birds are believed to have become sick after eating meat from the carcass of a euthanized horse that had been left out in a field.

The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife is investigating the incident because it is illegal to either intentionally or unintentionally poison a protected bird. In addition, a person can still be charged with a crime even if the bird survives.

“When you euthanize a horse, or another animal, they use sodium-phenobarbital and that goes through the entire system. So when a scavenger comes down to eat on that, they’re actually ingesting that chemical and it can euthanize them,” said Mike Pratt, of the West Sound Wildlife Shelter.

When the birds first arrived at the shelter on Sunday, they were very ill but appeared to be recovering by Tuesday.

“It’s imperative that we get these guys hydrated. (It has) electrolytes and stuff in it and some calories. It doesn’t hurt — it’s just a tube that goes down to the stomach,” said Pratt.

Pratt and his team at the shelter worked throughout the weekend to nurse the eagles back to health.


“It took down seven eagles but it could have been a lot worse — it could have taken down ravens, crows, gulls and pets and everything,” Pratt said.

One of the eagles is being treated at a shelter in Portland. The shelter said the eagles are now well enough to be moved into what’s called a “flying cage” and are almost ready to be released back into the wild.

“We want to give these animals a second chance at life and these animals — all six (one of the eagles is being treated at a shelter in Portland, Ore.) — I’m very confident today are going to make it. If you asked me that yesterday, I wasn’t sure ,”  he said.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife said it is just beginning its investigation and is not naming the owner of the farm. If found responsible for poisoning the birds and convicted, the owners could face up to a year in jail and a $200,000 fine.

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  • Sam

    Really? Who puts down an animal and then leaves the carcass out to rot? Unbelievably irresponsible and incredibly stupid on the part of the landowner. Throw the book at him!

    • whatatragedy

      If the ground is frozen, you wait till it thaws. If the animal has companions, it is preferable to allow them to see the body of their friend and get used to it passing. If no one told me, it would never occur to me that the carcase would poison birds. I dont think the farmer intentionally harmed those eagles, and it seems harsh to fine someone 100,000 dollars after they lost a loved horse for an inocent mistake. Mine have died of old age naturally, but If I have to put down one of my horses, I will be sure not to have the vet euthenize him with an injection if the ground is frozen.

  • Becky

    I know I will be put through the ringer for this, but humane slaughter would have been the best option. No chemicals and no waste.

      • Angela

        This wasn't some wacko out slitting throats. It sounds like he put this horse down in a way that was painless and quick. Probably never considered the meds would effect the wildlife. Or maybe he did and thought he could get rid of some other varmint, like coyote or whatever not considering the birds. As far as "letting it rot" if he didn't have the funds to have the horse treated mayhap he didn't have the funds to have it removed or the strength to bury it. Let's not be so quick to judge.

  • Janet Scyrkels

    Please, Please, send this message to our "Out of Her Mind" governor here in Oklahoma, she is probably going to sign a bill that allows House Slaghtering Houses, for comsumption in other countries, with no regard for the poll that suggests 59% of Oklahomans do not want this…Please, Please help us…..

  • Guest

    It is the law in MO at least that animals euthanized with drugs be buried or immediately cremated. You can't wait to put an animal down if it is in pain, has a broken leg or, in the case of horses with fatal colic, a ruptured stomach. Backhoes can dig in frozen ground. However, a bullet properly placed is humane. In Britain, that is the standard way of putting large animals down, using a special gun that is held against the proper spot on the head and firing it drives a bolt into the brain.

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