The Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) in Merville is used to caring for sick eagles but the number of eagles in its care so far this year has almost surpassed all of 2019.
“Our first patient of the year was a lead-poisoned bald eagle,” said MARS Manager of Rehabilitation Gyl Andersen. “We’ve had eight so far in 2020 all with confirmed lead poisoning and there were nine cases in 2019.
Only three eagles have survived so far this year and three survived last year.
“It’s quite a severe toxicity to have. They get neurological issues and it causes damage to pretty much every organ in their body,” added Andersen.
It’s shaping up to be a busy and expensive year caring for the eagles. Each one can cost hundreds of dollars to care for.
Officials at MARS used to think landfills were the source of the lead poisoning, but more recently it appears to come from wild animals the eagles have consumed.
“For eagles and other raptors, it’s usually from eating wounded or dead prey that has spent lead shot in their bodies. They can also get the lead fragments in the gut piles that they leave behind,” said Andersen.
She says hunters do have the option to use copper bullets instead, adding that a piece of lead the size of a grain of rice can be fatal to a bald eagle.