Tulsa Zoo saves bald eagle's life by performing blood transfusion on badly injured bird

Posted at 11:01 AM, Aug 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-09 17:40:50-04

TULSA - A wildlife rescue group in Rogers County credits the Tulsa Zoo for helping to save an American symbol.

In the capable, caring hands at Wild Heart Ranch, a bald eagle that rescuers are now calling "Scarlet" is well on her way to a full recovery. It's a major feat considering the condition of the bird when director Annette King got her.

"This was a dead bird," King said. "Had she not gone anywhere that did not have an eagle handy to use as a donor, she would have most likely lost her life."

King said Scarlet desperately needed blood after almost losing her life in a fight with another eagle in the wild.

Wild Heart Ranch brought Scarlet to the Tulsa Zoo, where the veterinarians there used one of its bald eagles to save her.

"We went and caught the largest (eagle) we have: Sallisaw," said Sarah Freudenthal, a senior veterinary technician at the Tulsa Zoo. "She's about nine years old, and she's about 10 pounds."

Freudenthal said Sallisaw acted as a blood donor so that the zoo's veterinarian could perform a blood transfusion on Scarlet.

"It's kind of like when you'd give blood, you'd get your cookie and juice," Freudenthal said, "so we gave (Sallisaw) her fluids. Once she woke up, we gave her a rat, which is like a cookie."

Freudenthal said, to her knowledge, the zoo's only done one other blood transfusion on an eagle, and that one worked, too. She said blood transfusions on animals are a fairly common procedure despite what many might think.

"We've had to do blood transfusions on one of our swans," Freudenthal said, "so it's doable."

Sallisaw is now back in her enclosure at the zoo, while Scarlet is working up the strength to fly again in the flight cage at Wild Heart Ranch.

"To have a story where one eagle nearly took (Scarlet's) life and another eagle saved her life is just remarkable," King said.

"I already know that the veterinarians at the Tulsa Zoo are amazing," she added, "but a story like this just proves what I already know. It's nice to share it and give them the kudos."

King expects to release Scarlet in a few weeks when some of her feathers have had time to grow back. The zoo's hospital staff said they would like to go to her release when she's ready.

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