Game agency says lead poisoning in bald eagles on the rise

(AP-File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Pennsylvania Game Commission says an increasing number of bald eagles have been admitted to wildlife rehabilitation centers after falling ill from lead poisoning.

Wildlife Veterinarian Justin Brown said raptors are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning because their stomachs cause rapid absorption of the metal. He said the metal can be flushed and removed from an eagle’s digestive system, but the treatment often is unsuccessful because the birds have already absorbed too much lead.

One rehabilitation center that treated 12 bald eagles with lead poisoning had only one that survived.

Necropsies on bald eagles from 2006 to 2016 revealed a third of the deaths were associated with a toxin and lead was the most common.

The game commission said the main source of lead has not been clearly identified, but hunters can help to reduce the threat by burying or covering the entrails of harvested game. Doing so will make it less likely that eagles and other scavengers find and eat the remains.

The agency said hunters could also use non-lead ammunition.

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