The trauma of being struck by a train, then by a car, within a two-week period last month proved too much for Streaky, the female half of a bald eagle pair known to have nested in the New River Gorge National River since 2010.
Streaky died peacefully on Monday in Three Rivers Avian Center at Brooks, Summers County, where she had been undergoing treatment that included daily foot, leg and pelvis soaks followed by massages, injections of fluid under her skin, and a diet of local fish along with chicken livers and thighs. Despite the therapy, the eagle failed to regain the use of her legs and her liver began to shut down and eventually fail completely, prompting Three Rivers’ veterinarian to authorize euthanasia.
Streaky, named for a mascara-like smudge under an eye, and her mate, Whitey, drew scores of birders each winter and spring to an overlook off W.Va. 20, from which they could monitor, with binoculars and spotting scopes, the pair’s nesting, hunting and feeding activity along the river below. They were the only bald eagles known to be breeding and nesting in the National Park Service’s New River Gorge National River.
Over the years, the pair produced several offspring in a treetop nest on a New River island. This year, they had moved to a new nest on a steep hillside overlooking their first nest, but had produced no eggs by the time Streaky collided with the windshield of an Amtrak passenger train passing through the Gorge on March 7. The female bald eagle was seen sitting along railroad tracks near the collision site the following day, before flying shakily to a perch near her original island nest, where she was joined by Whitey.
After less than two weeks’ healing time from her encounter with the passenger train locomotive, Streaky was found injured and immobile in a ditch along River Road, not far from her nesting site, after having been struck by a passing vehicle.
During a veterinarian’s examination, Streaky was found to have a broken beak, blunt force trauma to the head and legs, inflammation of the pelvic area and below-normal weight.
During her early days in therapy at Three Rivers, Streaky was eating well, but in recent days she was unable to eat, drink or respond favorably to injections of fluids, according to Wendy Perrone, the rehabilitation center’s executive director.
In March of last year, Streaky’s mate, Whitey, was also struck by a passing Amtrak locomotive, but seems to have fully recovered from that accident.
While Whitey and Streaky were the only known nesting pair of bald eagles in Southern West Virginia, additional nesting pairs are believed to exist in the New, Bluestone and Greenbrier River watersheds in counties adjoining the Virginia border. Volunteers taking part in an annual survey of sites along the three rivers in early March discovered the presence of 29 bald eagles and six golden eagles.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at firstname.lastname@example.org