KEWANEE, Illinois — A bald eagle is fighting against a neurological condition that caused her head to be crooked. It's because of lead poisoning.
"Her head was completely down and twisted 180 and looking up at the sky," says Tammy Yarger, CEO of Hog Wildlife Rescue and Rehab.
Yarger and her volunteers rescued the bird from someone's backyard off Route 91 in early March 2021. They named her Miss Majestic.
"She just acted like she'd known us forever," says Jennifer Russell, who volunteers with the rescue. "She wasn't scared of us at all, and she let us touch her, and she just like she knew we were there to help her."
The team hoped the eagle was just a little battered from a bonk on the head. But after a few days, they realized it was more serious.
"Once we discovered that she definitely wasn't seeing out of her left eye or really hearing out of her left ear, then it kind of began to look more serious than just, you know, tapping her head on a tree," Russell says.
Yarger says that's when they knew it was lead poisoning. So they drove her down to the University of Illinois, which ran some tests and confirmed that diagnosis.
Yarger says birds primarily get lead poisoning because some hunters use lead ammunition. They'll dress their kill in the field, leaving behind contaminated parts. Eagles, hawks and owls will eat what's left, ingesting the deadly toxin.
Hog Wildlife Rescue and Rehab has rescued eagles with lead poisoning before. Many don't make it.
Yarger says the best solution is to simply not use lead ammunition.
And she says she got good news Friday morning, March 12. The University of Illinois said Miss Majestic is making good progress and they're hopeful she's going to recover.
Her treatment involves an oral medication that works to remove the lead from her blood. If all goes well, she won't have that crick in her neck anymore. Yarger says she's lucky the lead hasn't already spread to Miss Majestic's organs.
"It was caught early," Russell says, "So I guess that's the most important part of it, it was caught early."
Yarger says Miss Majestic's treatment could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.
"It may take several weeks, which is fine," Yarger says. "As long as she's got a good outcome we don't care how long it takes. We just want her healthy."
Once Miss Majestic makes a full recovery, Hog Wildlife Rescue and Rehab will release her where they found her. They say her mate is waiting for her.
If you'd like to donate to Miss Majestic's care, you can send money through Pay Pal. Or mail a check to Hog Wildlife Rescue and Rehab, 824 N Burr St, Kewanee, IL 61443.