Nova

Nova in 2016, the year before he was sidelined from flying during pre-game festivities due to a heart condition

Auburn University’s famed golden eagle Nova, War Eagle VII, could be in the early stages of heart failure, according to university veterinarians.

The 20-year-old male eagle received a biannual checkup in early October at the College of Veterinary Medicine followed by another echocardiogram Oct. 31. In 2017 he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a chronic disease of the heart, and was sidelined from flying at football games to reduce stress.

“Nova’s condition has been medically managed and he has remained stable during the past two years, however, during his October exam, we observed decreased systolic function and enlarged vessels in his liver,” said Dr. Seth Oster, faculty avian veterinarian for the college’s Southeastern Raptor Center. “This could be an indication of the early stages of heart failure.”

Systolic function is a measurement of how well the heart is able to pump blood. Veterinarians have adjusted Nova’s dosage to hopefully improve his condition.

“We will know more after we see how Nova responds to his latest rounds of treatment,” Oster said.

Nova’s appearances at the Southeastern Raptor Center’s educational programs will be limited as veterinarians continue to monitor him, according to Andrew Hopkins, assistant director of raptor training and education.

Nova was hatched in 1999 at the Montgomery Zoo and was non-releasable due to human imprinting. He came to Auburn in 2000, made his first pre-game flight in 2004 and was designated War Eagle VII in 2006. He has helped promote wildlife conservation and awareness at almost 2,000 educational programs at the raptor center and at schools and conservation events around the Southeast. Raptor center staff conduct almost 300 presentations annually. 

Aurea, a 5-year-old female golden eagle, and Spirit, a 23-year-old female bald eagle, have made pregame flights this season and are regular participants in the center’s educational programs.

The Southeastern Raptor Center’s mission is to rehabilitate and release injured and orphaned raptors, to educate the public about their role and importance and to research raptor-related issues. All birds used in educational programs are non-releasable. The raptor center, a division of Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is given permission by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to house, care for and showcase birds of prey in its educational mission.

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