Bald eagles are dying at an alarming rate due to lead poisoning
Our national bird, which represents freedom and independence, is facing a deadly crisis.
While a soaring bald eagle is a sight to behold, they’ll be seen less and less if we keep poisoning their habitat.
Bald eagles are scavengers that often feed on animal carcasses left behind by hunters.
Unfortunately, the innards of these carcasses are usually littered with lead bullet fragments.
Often taking several days to take hold, lead poisoning contaminates their bodies at too toxic of levels, rendering them helpless.
“It’s easy to spot an eagle with lead poisoning,” says Betsy Finch of the Fontenelle Forest Raptor Recovery, which houses dozens of birds until they are healthy enough to fly away or put to rest.
“Inability to stand, convulsions, head tremors, difficulty breathing, gastrointestinal distress — because lead paralyzes the gut, so they can’t digest food, dehydration,” Finch said.
The nervous system is so severely affected they can no longer hunt and become emaciated, eventually dying of starvation.
A 2014 study found that of the nearly 3,000 eagles killed over 30 years, about 25% died from poisoning, usually lead poisoning.
Animals commonly hunted and scavenged by bald eagles include deer, pheasants, elk, and waterfowl. Other bird species known to be affected by lead poisoning include hawks and owls.
Want to help?
One way to stop lead poisoning would be to stop using lead bullets. On his last day in office the Obama administration banned the use of lead bullets.
Many hunters protested because they prefer the heavy weight of lead bullets and of course, lead is cheaper. So on his first day in office, President Trump’s administration lifted the ban.
If you’re a hunter who’d like bald eagles to survive as long as your grandchildren, you can help by using non-toxic bullets or slugs.
If you must use lead, recover and remove all shot game from the field or bury the remains with rocks and brush.
Please remove any slugs or bullet fragments from the carcass that remains.