Bald eagle threat: Lead ammo left behind by hunters – News –

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Bald eagles have made a remarkable recovery across the United States since the pesticide DDT was banned 45 years ago, but the majestic birds are still dying from another environmental poison: lead from bullets and shotgun pellets in wildlife carcasses left behind by hunters.

In New York, which has been a leader in the bald eagle restoration in the Northeast for four decades, state wildlife researchers have documented a growing number of eagle deaths from lead poisoning in recent years. Wildlife rehabilitators have also seen increasing numbers of eagles testing positive for lead in Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia and other states.

The problem is that eagles and other scavengers eat the guts of deer or the carcasses of coyotes, woodchucks and other game shot by hunters. Bits of lead bullets consumed along with the meat break down quickly in an eagle’s stomach and enter its bloodstream.

Elevated lead levels cause blindness, paralysis, lack of appetite and neurological problems that make eagles more likely to fly into buildings or vehicles if they don’t succumb to lead poisoning first.

Ed Clark, president of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, says they treat 35 to 40 eagles per year find about 60 percent of them have lead in their blood.

“Many hunters don’t realize that as much as 50 percent of a bullet may remain in the deer as fragments,” he said. “A sliver the size of a grain of rice is enough to kill a bald eagle in 72 hours.”

In New York, lead poisoning was confirmed as the cause of death in 38 of 336 bald eagles brought to a Department of Environmental Conservation lab near Albany between 2000 and 2015, said state wildlife biologist Kevin Hynes, who does the necropsies. Nine bald eagles were confirmed as lead-poisoning deaths in 2016, and seven so far this year.

“We’ve examined over 300 bald eagle carcasses for lead since the mid-1990s, and found 83 percent had some exposure to lead,” said Krysten Schuler,…

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