Lead poisoning is one of the leading causes of injury to bald eagles. By interning at the MacBride Raptor Project I was given hands on training with bald eagles and other raptor birds. In addition to hands on training I was also given the opportunity to look into the records of the MacBride Raptor Clinic. I analyzed this data to determine the common causes of raptor injuries, specifically focusing on bald eagles.
The widespread effect of lead in bald eagles is not commonly known. The use of lead bullets in rodent, coyote, fishing and large game hunting is the main cause of lead poisoning in eagles. Carcasses which are left behind are then fed on by eagles. Lead fragments are then consumed resulting in lead poisoning. Hunters also often clean their kills in the field leaving behind the offal of their kills which leaves the lead behind. Lead poisoning causes the eagle to not eat and become depressed, the eagle can then die from starvation or the exposure itself.
By working with the MacBride Raptor Clinic I was given hands on experience with injured raptors including bald eagles which were admitted there. By looking into the projects years of records I found significant data of lead poisoning among the bald eagles brought to the clinic. I then looked at the chances of survival in those eagles, whether they could be released or whether they died or had to be euthanized due to the extent of their poisoning. This data will show the wide spread effects that lead has on the eagles of Iowa.
Changes can be made to stop the spread of lead among eagles like non lead bullets. It is important for hunters to know about their effect on eagles therefore possibly changing their minds on what bullets they use. In addition to looking at the effects of lead, it is important to look into alternatives as well.
Kerry Flynn, ’15
St. Paul, MN
Sponsor: Andy McCollum