New study shows link between bald eagle deaths and lead ammunition
Endangered California condors have been the poster birds for calls to get lead ammunition out of our environment, but they might have to make some room for our nation's most iconic raptors thanks to a new study showing how lead ammunition is also harming bald eagles.
It might be illegal to hunt bald eagles, but a study conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigating the link between lead ammunition and bald eagle deaths in the Upper Mississippi River U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge, which spans across Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, shows they’re dying as a result of hunters and has led to more calls to protect wildlife from this toxic shot.
In 2011, researchers started a study to assess lead exposure in the upper midwest to see it if was related to ammunition and found that of 168 eagles they found dead, concentrations of lead were found in 48 percent of the livers and 21 percent had lead concentrations that were considered lethal.
They concluded that eagles were feeding on gut piles from deer and other animals left behind by hunters after examining the remains from 25 animals and found that they had from as little as one fragment to as many as 107 fragments per pile. It only takes a little to be toxic to an eagle, and one that is suffering the effects of poisoning is a heartbreaking sight.
Ed Britton, the manager of the refuge's Savanna, Ill. district, told the Quad-City Times that they're concerned with the potential long-term impacts on the thousands of bald eagles who winter and nest on the refuge and that other wild animals are also being exposed. He added that he hopes when hunters see the data they'll make the switch to non-lead ammo on their own.
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Bald eagle image via Shutterstock.