Injured bald eagle to receive skin graft surgery

Posted at 6:50 PM, Aug 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-01 21:34:19-04

“He won't look like any other eagle out there — he'll look more like a juvenile," said Molly Mullen, Manager of Marketing at Fontenelle Forest. “He'll have a white/brown toupee on his head unlike any other eagle in the wild.”

Feathered skin from the injured bald eagle's inner thigh will be grafted onto his head in a series of two surgeries, allowing feathers to re-grow.

The surgery will be performed by a team Friday at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

It will protect him from sunstroke and disease and an essential part of the eagle's recovery before being released into the wild.

"So we're planning on keeping that skin graft on his head, sewing the skin graft on, then stapling and wrapping to stop him from removing his bandages out of anger," Mullen said.

His case puzzled experts for weeks before Omaha Plastic surgeon Dr. Coleen Stice stepped in, operating on the bird to remove a piece of scab. They discovered he had suffered an electrical burn.

The eagle was nursed back to health, and now he’s back to his vivacious self and ready for surgery.

"He's really strong now. He's come back really well. Strong enough that he's fighting off three of our raptor recovery people in Elmwood," Mullen said.

Experts say he’s not out of the woods quite yet, but they’re optimistic about his operation under Dr. Stice’s experienced hands.

"Somebody who is a burn expert, plastic surgeon, a burn expert who has already done a feathered skin graft," said Mullen. "It's totally perfect."

Veterinarians, raptor experts and those who have come to love the bird are all keeping an eagle-eyed focus on his release.

"He's stronger and stronger. Now, if it were up to him, he'd fly right back out into the wild right now. We just know his head won't sustain that," Mullen said.

The injured eagle's care at the Raptor Recovery amounted to more than $10 a day, totaling in the hundreds. You can donate to his care via the Fontenelle Forest website.