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Young eagle poisoned by lead being treated at Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

Murdo Messer, co-founder of the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Hilden, holds a young eagle poisoned by lead. The bird is now being treated and, if she survives, will be returned to the wild.
Murdo Messer, co-founder of the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Hilden, holds a young eagle poisoned by lead. The bird is now being treated and, if she survives, will be returned to the wild. - Contributed
HILDEN, N.S. —

The most recent eagle to arrive at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (CWRC) is currently being treated for lead poisoning and, hopefully, she’ll survive.
The eagle is one of this year’s babies, but she came in with high lead levels in her system.
“Because she’s so young, her parents may have fed her contaminated meat," said Dr. Jessica Rock, a veterinarian who volunteers at the CWRC. “They may have been poisoned and didn’t make it.”
The bird was found in a rural area of East Hants. Because she wasn’t flying, Department of Lands and Forests caught her and brought her to the centre.
“When we examined her, we realized some behaviours were wrong,” said Rock. “Her aim was terrible. She would grab at food but miss it, and then get frustrated and grab and grab and grab.”
Like all eagles that come in, she was tested for lead poisoning, and her levels were high. She was treated with a five-day course of medication to bind up the lead so it can be excreted. Her levels will be retested.
“Her attitude gives us a pretty good feeling about her chance of survival,” said Rock. “She’s hyperaware, bright, strong and afraid of us. She wants to move around and get away from us, which is what we want to see.
“I think she was caught before the clinical effects took full hold. Her aim was already much better after one day.”
Because there’s oil on her feathers, she’ll need to be washed, and will probably remain in the care of the CWRC for the winter.
The centre has had many birds come in with lead poisoning. Along with eagles there have been ravens, hawks, crows, great horned owls and a turkey vulture.
“It’s extremely dangerous to birds because their digestive tract does the grinding, and lead is such a soft metal it can be ground down into microscopic form that can be absorbed,” explained Rock. “Lead doesn’t go away without medical treatment; it just keeps adding up in the body.”
Every year, birds die after eating the remains of wild animals shot with lead ammunition. Rock urges hunters to switch to non-lead ammunition, or at least reduce their impact on birds by taking unwanted sections of animals they’ve shot out of the woods and disposing of them through incineration or burying. One 150-grain lead bullet contains enough lead to kill 10 eagles.
Lead affects a bird's nervous system and can cause seizures, blindness, paralysis and difficulty eating and breathing.
Lead bullets are also be dangerous for humans. When they hit an animal they fragment into hundreds of pieces, some so small they can’t be seen by the naked eye, and spread up to 45 centimetres (18 inches). This means people may be ingesting tiny lead particles when they eat meat, and no levels are safe for young children.
More information on lead, and safer alternatives, can be found on the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre website at http://cwrc.net. 
 

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