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Raptor undergoing treatment resilient despite disease, deformity

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Posted at 10:05 PM, Feb 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-17 00:05:10-05

UTAH COUNTY, Utah – A bald eagle afflicted with West Nile Virus is being treated, and the bird also had birth defects--some of which have now been repaired.

The raptor is being cared for at the Great Basin Wildlife Rescue Center after being found and brought in for treatment.

The bird, dubbed Mike, is the latest in a series of bald eagles to come down with West Nile Virus, and Patti Richards, executive director of the Great Basin Wildlife Rescue Center, said the bird was in bad shape when it was brought in.

"He had the West Nile Virus,” Richards said. “He was found in Saratoga Springs, and the gentleman that brought him to us, he had him in a laundry basket. So you knew he was weak."

Mike has lived longer than other birds diagnosed with the disease, and wildlife workers hope he will be the first of the birds to pull through and survive.

In addition to the disease, Mike also has a defect that left him without air holes in his beak and his talons are deformed.

"You can see the deformity, his nostrils should be right here,” Richards said.

Richards said they believe the deformities have hampered Mike’s hunting.

"We figure he's about 4 or 5 years old, and how he survived that long without being able to hunt, because they need those rear talons to be able to catch fish and things like that, but also we noticed that he has a huge callous on his knee, and so he must have spent a lot of time on the ground that way,” she said.

Veterinarians were able to improve the eagle’s breathing, but not repair his talons.

"It's been breathing through its mouth and a self-created airway around the eye, and so basically in the hopes that this bird is going to recover, and in order to breathe better, we today tried to create a new nasal opening,” said Dr. Vaughn Park, who owns the Park Animal Hospital.

Park said the surgery went well.

"He will be able to breathe a whole lot better and get a lot better air circulation and just fly better and live a better life,” Park said.