Montana Golden Eagle Found With Lead Poisoning
It's an unfortunate situation for many species. My takeaway from this story is simply a plea to Montana hunters to be more conscientious.
Our pal Angela Montana, a correspondent for the Montana Outdoor Radio Show, received a call from an associate with Back Country Hunters and Anglers concerning a golden eagle trying to hobble away on clenched talons. The eagle was exhausted and underweight, and the person knew almost immediately what the signs pointed to: lead poisoning. A trip to Wild Skies Raptor Center confirmed their suspicion.
This golden eagle lives in a popular hunting area where entrails and other unused animal parts are left behind by successful hunters. Those leftovers are subsequently fed upon by dozens of species, including birds such as magpies, ravens, bald eagles, golden eagles and hawks. The unique digestive system of birds means that even tiny lead fragments can result in high lead levels in the blood. High lead levels can lead to physiological impairment at best and a slow and painful death at worst.
A recent study in the Bitterroot Valley found close to 95% of wintering golden eagles had blood lead levels above what would normally be expected for wild animals. In 8 of those golden eagles, the lead levels were severely elevated. That is just one of many studies all pointing towards the same thing. , and as internet arguments play out over muzzle velocities, shot placement, and other minute details, lead-poisoned eagles continue to be frequent patients at raptor rehab facilities across the west.
When animals are shot with lead bullets, even if we are doing everything right, there is always the potential for lead fragments to be left behind. Hunters and anglers have been on the front lines of conservation efforts. And just like everything else on social media, there are difference of opinion on the subject. But from Angela's point of view, it is worth extending a heart-felt “thank you” to those hunters who have made the switch to copper ammunition when hunting.
Angela can be reached at montanaoutdoor.com.
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