4 bald eagles die from lead poisoning at Alta. wildlife rehab centre

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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MADDEN, Alta. - Four bald eagles with lead poisoning that were being nursed at an Alberta wildlife rehabilitation centre have died.
The birds were brought in to the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation in Madden, Alta., over the past few months and officials confirmed Monday that all four animals have died.
A biologist says the birds can be poisoned by eating lead shots fired from the guns of hunters trying to bag bigger game.
Dianne Wittner says the raptors feeding on the carcasses of such animals also ingest some of the lead shot and it can kill them.
Tissue samples taken from the dead birds, who were being cared for at the wildlife hospital northwest of Calgary, confirmed their cause of death.
Wittner says the birds of prey eat meat from carcasses of wounded or dead animals that are left behind by hunters.
"They come across carcasses, either animals that are not dead yet they've just been wounded, or animals whose carcasses have been left behind, and they're full of shards of lead," she said.
"They just dive in there and gorge themselves."
Wittner said the deaths of these bald eagles could have been prevented.
Wildlife trauma specialists at the animal hospital want to do a two-year study on the impact of environmental toxins such as lead on birds of prey.
They're looking for a donor to help with the cost.
According to a website dedicated to Canadian wildlife, most of Canada's bald eagle breeding population is found in British Columbia and northern areas of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.
Hinterland Who's Who says there are small but important nesting populations in Cape Breton and along the Newfoundland coast.
The huge birds of prey, whose wingspan can stretch about two metres, were taken off the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered species list in 2007.
Bald eagle populations severely declined in the United States between 1870 and 1970 because of hunting, habitat loss and the use of the pesticide DDT.

Organizations: Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Geographic location: Alberta, Calgary, Canada British Columbia Saskatchewan Manitoba Ontario Cape Breton Newfoundland United States

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