The bald eagle was too weak to stand or lift up his head.
He was dehydrated and had green on his tail feathers, an obvious sign of toxic lead poisoning. A test showed that it was likely a lethal level of toxicity.
Some organizations might euthanize an animal in such a dire condition, but Centre Wildlife Care tries to treat every animal. They had the bald eagle for about 20 hours before he died Monday afternoon.
“Since we got our testing machine, we’ve seen animals on a regular basis,” CWC Executive Director Robyn Graboski said. “Almost all bird scavengers have had some exposure to lead, some of them at a toxic level. We knew the bald eagle probably had a lethal level.”
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It’s not the first time a bird has died in the area due to lead poisoning, Graboski said, adding that one lead pellet is enough to kill a bird.
“I’m not bashing hunters at all, but people need to learn,” she said. “If you are using lead ammunition, you are probably leaving lead fragments in the meat. If a scavenger eats it, it gets into the digestive system and the blood stream. If the toxicity is high enough for long enough, it kills them. You could also expose yourself to lead poisoning.”
Graboski doesn’t know what else could cause dozens of animals to get lead poisoning each year, but said similar cases could be prevented.
“Many people do not realize that traditional ammunition is lead, and they can choose to use different ammunition,” she said. “Non-lead ammunition absolutely is available. Small sportsman types of stores usually do not carry non-lead ammunition, but you can still find it.”