On Friday, November 15, a mature bald eagle was admitted to the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. She was underweight and had a broken wing. Her blood lead levels were so high that the Lead Care II machine couldn’t read them, and lead fragments were visible in her gizzard on X-rays. Lead poisoned birds loose control of their bodies, become unable hunt or scavenge, cannot judge distances or fly well, and eventually succumb to one or more of the following fates…
– STARVATION – inability to hunt or scavenge, paralysis of the muscles that control swallowing
– TRAUMA or INJURY – birds collide with natural or man made structures while in flight, they fall from flight or misjudge landings and collide with the ground, they are uncoordinated around roads and get hit by cars, etc
– ASPHYXIATION – paralysis of the the nerves that control breathing
– SEIZURES – both direct actions in the bra in and secondary effects of poor oxygen delivery from anemia, asphyxiation, or organ failure
– MULTIPLE ORGAN FAILURE – lead prevents essential molecules like iron (red blood cell function and oxygen delivery), calcium (nerve signaling, muscle and heart function, etc) and zinc (immune function, tissue healing, vision, etc) from doing their jobs
– DROWNING – particularly species like loons or swans which become so weak that they cannot hold their own heads out of the water
Sadly, the only humane option for this mature bald eagle was to end her suffering with dignity and respect. We hope that her story will help to spread the word about the risks of lead to wildlife and people.
Individual choices can make a difference. Please choose non-lead ammunition and fishing gear, ask your local outfitters to stock non-lead options, and spread the word. If you can’t switch, please leave nothing behind or bury your gut pile.
Jessica Rock, DVM