Bald eagle found in distress in Bay View presumed positive for bird flu

NOW: Bald eagle found in distress in Bay View presumed positive for bird flu

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- We've now learned why a beloved Bay View bald eagle was in distress. 

According to the Wisconsin Humane Society, test results came in and indicate the eagle was presumed positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, more commonly known as the bird flu. 

The eagle was humanely euthanized after being rescued from a front yard of a residence in Bay View because it was in critical condition beyond treatment. The wildlife director says deadly bird flu is definitely spreading through the region as several species migrate north.

Because avian influenza is so fast-acting, there is a low rate of survival.

Wildlife Director Crystal Sharlow-Schaefer said, "It is absolutely heartbreaking to get patients like this in and know that we can try our very, very best, but sometimes these things are absolutely out of our control."

The female eagle was already in poor condition when it was found in Bay View and admitted to the Humane Society's care facility last Friday.

Sharlow-Schaefer said, "She was not readily flying away when people got quite close to her. Her wings were drooped, her head was turned under. So clearly she was feeling very unwell."

Her symptoms declined so rapidly she had to euthanized the next day.

Another test is underway to confirm the positive result, but the Humane Society says it does appear this eagle had highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Crystal Sharlow-Schaefer said anyone seeing a sick or injured bird should reach out to a wildlife rehabilitator first, and they'll ask for pictures or even video. She said, "That allows our staff to positively identify the species, and then also see if there any suspect symptoms."

The Humane Society could ask you to bring it to them, or they'll direct you to the DNR. If they do ask you to bring the bird to them, they'll tell you how to do it safely.

But they caution: do not bring in a sick bird without contacting them first.

Sharlow-Schaefer said, "The reason for that is because any bird coming into the facility may potentially have that virus. And we don't want that potentially spread to patients we currently have in care."

Sharlow-Schaefer said they don't know a lot about the eagle's mate right now but they're hopeful the mate was not exposed to the virus. "The community has really embraced that eagle's nest in that area, and they definitely are watching, as are we. We want to see if that bird is ill."

Bird flu poses a low risk to humans, especially when most people don't have close contact.

If you find a bird that looks sick or injured, or any wild animal, call the Humane Society hotline at 414-431-6204 and leave a message.

The DNR is asking the public to contact them with reports of waterfowl, waterbirds, raptors (especially Bald Eagles) and avian scavengers such as crows, ravens and gulls showing tremors, circling movement, or holding their heads in an unusual position. These symptoms may be a sign of HPAI. These reports can be made to the DNR Wildlife Hotline by emailing DNRWildlifeSwitchboard@wi.gov or by leaving a voicemail message for a return phone call at 608-267-0866.

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