Eagles congregate around British Columbia’s south coast

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WatchThe influx of eagles is leading to more sick eagles being cared for at Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society in Merville.

If you think you’re seeing more eagles than usual around Vancouver Island lately, there’s a good reason for it.

“We definitely have a lot of eagles here,” said Kiersten Shyian of Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) in Merville. “It has a lot to do with the abundance of food here, the temperature. People come from all over to see our eagles.”

It is estimated that 70 per cent of all of the eagles on the west coast of North America migrate to and stay in the Salish Sea from late November to mid-February. The reason for this is that the Salish Sea offers a relatively mild climate, some prolific chum runs in December, and some of the earliest herring spawns in mid to late February.

However, the annual congregation usually means an uptick in the number of sick eagles at MARS including one being treated for lead poisoning, a common occurrence at this time of year.

“He has been lead-poisoned, he actually does have lead in his gut still so he has probably eaten either a duck that has been shot with lead shot or a duck that has eaten lead shot,” said Shyian.

It could also have come from deer guts left behind by hunters.

Experts at MARS ask that hunters consider using steel shot instead of lead shot when they’re hunting this fall.

A new blood-testing machine was recently donated to MARS and has made a huge difference in diagnosing sick eagles.

It costs about $150 to treat a lead-poisoned eagle so MARS is hoping to see an increase in donations this fall to match the increase in eagles it will be treating.

Learn more about MARS here.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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