CENTRALIA — Seven poisoned bald eagles, including two in critical condition, are recovering in regional shelters after feeding on two euthanized horse carcasses left in a Winlock area field over the weekend.
Six of the eagles — five juveniles and one adult — were transported to West Sound Wildlife Shelter on Bainbridge Island, where they are expected to make a full recovery in about a week.
The other juvenile bird was taken to the Audubon Society of Portland and is improving, according to the center’s veterinarian Deb Sheaffer.
“The two critical ones are starting to come around,” West Sound Wildlife Shelter Rehabilitation Director Mike Pratt said on Monday afternoon. “The other four are in varying degree of conditions. I moved two outside and the rest are inside still.”
Pratt said the eagles came in Sunday vomiting with convulsions. Some were unconscious due to consuming the potent drug Euthasol used to euthanize the two horses last Wednesday.
Winlock resident Sharon Thomas and her neighbor, Darlene Osborn, first noticed a large bird flopping around in the field by their property on Harkins Road on Friday night.
“It crashed twice and flew directly to us and sat at our feet,” Thomas said. “We didn’t know initially what was wrong.”
The neighbors found another juvenile eagle on Saturday and four more birds Sunday.
“They were drunk,” Thomas said. “They were not in their natural state.”
Thomas and her neighbors brought the sick birds to Raindancer Wild Bird Rescue in Olympia where they were evaluated and sent to Bainbridge Island for further treatment.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field agent Steve Furrer flew in a small plane over the field Sunday morning when he found the first horse carcass, Thomas said.
The second horse carcass was found simultaneously Sunday morning by Thomas’ neighbors.
Fish and Wildlife instructed the horse owners to bury the carcasses Sunday afternoon.
“I know they made a bad judgment,” Thomas said of the horse owners. “I don’t want those people to be harassed, but the horses should have been handled differently with that kind of medication in their system.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Joan Jewett said the agency is investigating the case. The name of person who left the horse carcasses in the field was not available.
Jewett said poisoning a bald eagle, even inadvertently, is a violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act with maximum penalties up to one year in prison and $200,000 in fines.
“You don’t have to directly poison an eagle for it to be a violation of the law,” Jewett said.
No other wildlife, including coyotes, hawks or other scavengers, have been impacted by the poisoned horse meat, Jewett said.
Thomas said if anyone sees wildlife acting abnormally in the Winlock area they should contact Fish and Wildlife.
“When you see something as majestic as an eagle,” Thomas said, “you just do what you need to do.”