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Bald eagles are poisoned by lead ammunition in hunted animals. Can a copper bullet solve it?

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Something was wrong.


An American bald eagle, tall in the darkness of South Harrison Township in Gloucester County, was flapping for hours and didn’t seem to fly.

Warned of the apparent pain of great creatures, the county’s park ranger turned to the help of a local fire department. They brought a ladder truck for the purpose of catching birds. Even an injured eagle would have soared any healthy eagle. However, this companion seemed to be connected by an invisible problem.

There he gathered and was taken to Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, a Delaware bird rehabilitation center that treats many eagles. It was disappointing, but not surprising, that the Tristate caregiver found it.

The strange behavior of the eagle that night in December was not due to wing damage or other injuries.I had Lead poisoning..

“We are always looking at it,” said Lisa Smith, Executive Director of Tristate. “It’s very sad and frustrating because it can be prevented.”

Wildlife rehabilitation leaders, animal biologists, and other experts such as Smith have said that bald eagles have ingested lead from the debris of other animals shot with lead bullets until they have recently become an endangered species. He says he is sick and even dead. This is similar to the neurological damage suffered by children who consume lead-based paints and other sources of lead.

But now there is new evidence that lead poisoning does more than just harm individual animals. It cuts down on the hard-earned benefits made to save this symbol of American power and freedom.

A team of researchers at Cornell University have discovered that our National Bird population recovery (a decades of protection success story) has been stunted by lead poisoning from bullets.

Published in Wildlife Management JournalAccording to a study by Cornell University, lead intake by bald eagles increased the population by an average of 6% or more in male birds and about 4% in females each year. It was almost 30 years seen by research. Researchers used computer modeling with actual data from seven northeastern states, including New Jersey.

However, while the study deals with hunting practices, it is not anti-hunting, the authors say.

Kristen L. Schuler, Senior Research Author and Associate Professor of Public and Ecosystem Health at Cornell University, said:

“There are alternatives to non-lead ammunition that don’t poison eagles and other scavengers that can eat parts left by hunters,” said Schuler, a hunter who uses copper ammunition instead of lead. I am saying. “This is an outreach and educational campaign for those who want to know that this effect is real, and they can make changes to the ammunition they use to really help eagles and other animals. increase.”

According to researchers at Cornell University, bald eagles and other predators often eat lead by eating the debris left over when hunters change into games in the field. Biologists say that very small amounts of lead can cause serious harm to eagles and even kill them. In another example, an eagle can become addicted when eating so-called nasty animals such as groundhogs and raccoons shot by homeowners with lead ammunition.

Some hunters skeptical about the impact of lead on the overall population say alternative ammunition is more expensive and can be difficult to access. But Schuler said he had options.

“There are other things hunters can do,” she said. “They can get rid of those organs, and if they’re shooting with lead, they can’t leave them in the field. It’s not an all-or-nothing deal.”

There is no doubt that the American bald eagle has made a powerful comeback. With the ban on pesticide DDT in 1972, this endangered species has made gradual but dramatic progress.

Federal statistics show that between 2009 and 2021, the number quadrupled to more than 316,000.

According to the latest New Jersey Bald Eagle Project report, many factors can threaten the survival of an eagle, the largest being habitat loss and human disruption. Other causes of eagle death described in the report were electrocution from power lines, hitting cars and trains, fighting other eagle, illness, and toxins such as lead.

A serious lead-poisoned eagle is a terrible sight, says wildlife rehab officials. Birds have seizures. Some people can’t keep their heads up. They may lose other physical coordination and control. They may not be able to fly, let alone hunt. These birds may die or need to be euthanized.

However, even lower levels of lead can be a fundamental cause of eagle injury and death.

“All eagles entering the rehab center are tested for lead. Many of them will reach their sublethal levels. [of lead].. But they are undermined. “Lead is a neurotoxin,” said Kathy Clark, who oversees biologists for the Endangered and Non-Game Species program in New Jersey.

According to Clark, her department is currently analyzing over 100 eagle liver samples collected over the past 15 years for lead, rodenticides and toxins. When her study of her was completed this year, she said they might have a better idea of ​​the degree of exposure to these dangerous goods.

People running programs that take care of injured and sick eagles say they already know that lead is behind many of the problems they see.

“Eagles have all sorts of problems, but almost all eagles have unhealthy levels of lead, even if the rescued problem doesn’t seem to be lead,” Peggy Sue Hentz said. I am saying. Founder of Schuylkill Haven’s Red Creek Wildlife Center. “It goes back to the fact that the eagle was in a debilitated state.

“You have the toxic effects of lead, and weakened birds can’t take care of themselves as they should,” Hentz said. “It will be chosen by a healthy eagle that attacks it, or it will clean the road and be attacked by a car.”

It was basically the story behind a seriously injured female bald eagle brought to Red Creek earlier last year. Rather than a healthy female eagle nesting at that time, the bird was flying around the ground of a farmer’s field in Turbotville and could not fly.

When she was taken to Red Creek, tests showed a severely torn ligament on one of her wings, perhaps a puncture of her entire body from a fight with another eagle, and moderate to severe blood. Revealed lead levels.

Sometimes sepsis is the only thing that blames the bird’s disability. That was the case with a South Harrison male bald eagle that Tristate was able to treat in December and return to the wild.

But sometimes, Tristate Director Smith said the neurological damage from Reed was too great. Birds are placed.

“When it’s really high, we take the time to learn when they can and cannot recover,” Smith said. “It’s difficult, but if they are suffering, we need to relieve that suffering.”

Many hunters are aware of the damage that lead can do and encourage them to change their ammunition practices and do the same for others. For example, the website HuntingWithNonLead.org is created by hunters and wildlife biologists. In some states, lead ammunition restrictions are also brought about by the help of hunters.

The authors of the Cornell study hope that their findings on the effects of lead on the Eagles comeback will strike a chord.

“It’s not about trying to steal someone’s gun,” Schuler said. “We wanted a healthy science of what this is doing to the population. Hunters are original conservationists. From the research we conducted, many hunters really have this problem. I haven’t noticed. “

Mark Catalano is the county coordinator of Wildlife in Need, a non-profit organization in Pennsylvania, capturing injured and orphaned animals for wildlife rehabilitation.He has seen the effects of lead Bald eagle..

“When it comes to lead poisoning, it’s a scary way for birds to die,” he said. “You see this magnificent bird that can’t even take care of itself.”

That’s why the happy ending is so impressive, like the heavily injured female eagle with wings that the Red Creek Wildlife Center grew up well last year.

To get rid of lead from her blood, she needed two months of care and two courses of dosing, which cost more than $ 1,000 donated by animal lovers. But finally in March last year, Catalano returned the eagle to the same field where it was rescued.

“It was a perfect release,” Catalano said.

When he opens the carrying case, eagle When I jumped out and looked around, a big bird jumped out.

“It was like,’I know exactly where I am and where I am heading,'” Catalano said. “I felt great.”


Rebound of stunted bald eagle due to lead ammunition poisoning


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Quote: The bald eagle is poisoned by hunting animal lead ammunition. Can a copper bullet solve it? (February 14, 2022) February 14, 2022 Obtained from https://phys.org/news/2022-02-bald-eagles-poisoned-ammo-animals.html

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Bald eagles are poisoned by lead ammunition in hunted animals. Can a copper bullet solve it?

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