Elderly Bald Eagle Euthanized at National Zoo

An elderly female bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) named Sam was euthanized Friday, Dec. 31, at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park. The bird was found lying in her exhibit Dec. 28 and was transported to the Zoo’s veterinary hospital for treatment. Although the eagle initially responded to medical treatment, her condition soon began to decline and she was humanely euthanized.

A full postmortem examination was conducted and results will be available in several weeks.

Sam was a wild-born bird, estimated to be more than 30 years old. She was found in Alaska with a gunshot wound in 1986 and because of the injury, she could not be released back into the wild. Bald eagles can live into their late teens and early 20s in the wild. A few wild eagles have lived into their 30s.

Sam came to the National Zoo in 2003 from the American Eagle Foundation at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. She had participated in their traveling educational programs from 1990 to 1992. 

While habitat loss still threatens the bald eagle, the wild population is thriving and was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in June 2007. The Zoo currently has one bald eagle left and is investigating options to add more, but it does not have immediate plans. The Zoo’s bald eagles have been off-exhibit due to construction of the new seal and sea lion exhibit in the Beaver Valley section of the park.