The Wildlife Investigations Lab has been involved in the investigation of three cases of severe mite infestation, or mange, affecting subadult golden eagles in central California. Two cases were reported to WIL by SPCA for Monterey County in December 2012 and August 2013, while a third case was reported by biologists with the East Bay Regional Park District, also in August 2013. The eagles had significant feather loss and crusting of the skin on their head, neck, legs, and lower abdomen.
Severe mite infestation is unusual in birds and especially uncommon in adult birds. The degree of feather loss and infestation exhibited by these golden eagles has not been previously documented. Mange likely affects the eagle’s ability to maintain normal body temperature and they may have difficulty obtaining food, becoming weakened, possibly increasing their susceptibility to trauma or other disease.We are currently working with researchers from the East Bay Regional Park District, SPCA for Monterey County, and the University of California, Davis to thoroughly document these cases, identify the mite, and evaluate any underlying health conditions.
The public is urged to notify the California Department of Fish and Wildlife if additional golden eagles, or other raptors, are seen with severe feather loss. If you find a live-eagle on the ground, do not attempt to capture the bird yourself, as these birds can be extremely dangerous; rather, please contact your local licensed wildlife rehabilitation center for assistance.