Luckily for a bald eagle that wildlife rehabilitator Lynn Sciumbato was able to take the lead of the large female raptor.
The eagle’s healing journey ended on September 25, a sunny Saturday, when Sciumbato freed the bird after treating it after lead poisoning. A small crowd watched the bald eagle soar from the outstretched arms of Sciumbato near the Visitor Center in Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area. A limit of about fifty people pre-registered to watch the release and keep a small audience.
The female bald eagle was found in Carroll County last winter unable to fly. Months of treatment at the Morning Star Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Sciumbato, near Gravette, purged the poison, but the eagle was too weak to fly. Slowly, the bald raptor grew stronger by exercising its wings in a large flight cage in the center.
To treat the lead poisoning, Sciumbato swallowed an eagle pill twice a day. The drug contained what she called a “chelating” agent that binds to lead. Out goes a little lead every time the eagle poops.
“We don’t know how the eagle was poisoned with lead. It happens when an eagle ingests lead in something it eats,” she said.
Perhaps he ate game that had lead shot from a shotgun, or he ate the organs of a dressed deer on the ground that contained fragments of lead bullets.
Eagles eat a lot of waterfowl, Sciumbato noted, but steel shot, not lead, has been needed to hunt waterfowl for years. This regulation has significantly reduced lead poisoning in bald eagles. However, lead shot is still used to hunt squirrels, rabbits, doves and other game.
What Sciumbato does know is that the eagle is female due to its large size, around 12 pounds. Male bald eagles are smaller, at 7 to 10 pounds.
The eagle has distinct white feathers on its head and tail, so it is at least five years old. Juvenile bald eagles are predominantly brown and only develop the white plumage when they are old enough to mate at the age of four or five.
A federal permit is required to treat bald eagles, and Sciumbato is the only federally licensed wildlife rehabilitation agency in the region. She has been dedicated to treating furry and feathered creatures for 34 years and now specializes in birds.
The animal healer does not announce her retirement, but knows that she will not be able to do her good works forever. Dr Emily Warman, a veterinarian in Bentonville, knows it too. Warman founded Northsong Wild Bird Rehabilitation last year with the aim of taking over the reins of wild bird care if and when Sciumbato is ready to welcome others.
Warman and other Northsong volunteers have worked with Sciumbato at Morning Star since 2017, learning from her and watching her work. The plan is for Northsong to provide free medical care to wild birds in the area, Warman said.
“Ultimately, we want to be a federally accredited establishment,” she added. “It’s incredibly difficult to get a federal license,” but Warman is ready to tackle the process. Northsong eventually wants to build its own wildlife rehabilitation center similar to Sciumbato’s at Morning Star. Northsong welcomes donations and sponsors to help cover costs.
Currently, small birds can be treated after hours at the Rose Animal Clinic in Bentonville, where Warman works.
Perhaps the next bald eagle released into the wild will steal from the arms of Warman or another Northsong Wild Bird Rehabilitation volunteer.
The eagle flies over Sciumbato’s vehicle on September 27 after its release. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / Flip Putthoff)
Chris Pistole, park interpreter at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area, uses a rope to show the wingspan of different birds. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / Flip Putthoff)
Lynn Sciumbato, a longtime federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator, talks about the treatment of the bald eagle she released in the Hobbs State Park Conservation Area. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / Flip Putthoff)
Lynn Sciumbato, a longtime federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator, talks about the treatment of the bald eagle she released in the Hobbs State Park Conservation Area. Madison Kennedy (right) of Northsong Wild Bird Rehabilitation hears his remarks. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / Flip Putthoff)
Northsong Wild Bird Rehabilitation founder Dr Emily Warman (center), a veterinarian in Bentonville, distributes materials on Northsong after the eagle is released. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / Flip Putthoff)
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Northsong for birds
Northsong Wild Bird Rehabilitation was established in December 2020 with a mission to establish a medical and rehabilitation center in Northwest Arkansas.
For more information, to volunteer, or to sign up for the Northsong newsletter, visit northsongbird.org.
Source: Northsong Wild Bird Rehabilitation