Sask. animal rescue org sharing story of lead-poisoned eagles to discourage use of lead pellets

·2 min read
Two bald eagles with lead poisoning died within 48 hours of each other at Salthaven West.  (Salthaven West/Facebook - image credit)
Two bald eagles with lead poisoning died within 48 hours of each other at Salthaven West. (Salthaven West/Facebook - image credit)

Salthaven West is sharing the story of two bald eagles found in distress this past December in hopes people will stop using lead pellets.

The Regina-based non-profit rehabilitates sick and injured wildlife in hopes of return them back to the wild. It wasn't able to do so for the two bald eagles.

"When the first one arrived, we were pretty sure that there was a toxin involved and we thought it was likely lead," director Megan Lawrence said. "The people that rescued it went looking for other animals that may have been injured by this toxin and they found a second eagle at the location."

She said the eagles died within about 48 hours of each other.

Lawrence said the non-profit is fairly certain lead was involved and sent the eagles to be tested. The results came back positive for lead this past week.

There were dead coyotes in the area where the eagles were found, Lawrence said. She believes the coyotes may have been shot with lead pellets and, with eagles being scavengers, the birds were poisoned by eating them.

"It's quite common for them to eat dead animals, or if hunters are using lead and leave parts of the deer behind, eagles will come along and clean that up," Lawrence said.

"Lead, it presents itself as severe neurological symptoms, seizures, paralysis. They were very weak, emaciated. The first one had the vision issues that can cause blindness as well. Both could barely even hold their heads up."

One of the eagles was badly poisoned to the point that it could barely lift it's head up, Megan Lawrence said.
One of the eagles was badly poisoned to the point that it could barely lift it's head up, Megan Lawrence said.

Lawrence said it can be hard for the volunteers to see eagles in this condition, but they did their best to save the birds.

"We know that we did everything we could for them and it just wasn't enough. They were too far gone by then."

If anyone, even one person, can switch from using lead, they can make a big difference. - Megan Lawrence

The centre sees about one eagle a year on average, she said. The ones who do recover can't be released back into the wild. Instead, they need to live out their days at sanctuaries.

Lawrence said she hopes people remember there are other options for ammunition, such as steel or copper. She said that while lead can be cheaper, it's toxic to both animals and humans.

"If anyone, even one person, can switch from using lead, they can make a big difference."