A female bald eagle suffering from lead poisoning found at Shelter Point Distillery is currently receiving treatment at the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS).
On Feb. 19, MARS received the eagle whose lead levels were extremely high and was “very, very weak,” said Ella Downing, a volunteer with the Merville-based organizations that helps orphaned, ill or injured birds and wildlife.
Downing explained the eagle, who she noted is at least four-years-old, is showing signs of ‘head tilt,’ a condition of lead poisoning.
“She came in and we ran a lead test with a blood sample, and it came back as high. We’re currently doing a calcium treatment through an injection. We tube feed her and give her water, every 12 hours for five days. She’ll take a bit of a break, and then we’ll test her blood again. Likely we’ll have to do it again.”
Late last year, MARS received an eagle where staff immediately suspected a diagnosis of lead poisoning. Pearl McKenzie, chair of the communication team for the organization noted at the time they believe some of the poisonings are due to eagles feeding on gut piles left by hunters. She explained that lead shots fragment into very small particles and travels through the body of the target animal, which makes it dangerous for people eating the meat and animals such as eagles feeding on the carcasses.
In the spring, MARS is hoping to make a film illustrating what they’ve been learning doing this work.
“We’re hoping that hunters and hunting organizations – who are by and large conservationists – will work with us to come up with ways to solve this problem,” she noted. “People use lead in ammunition for a number of good reasons so it’s not as simple as not using lead.”
As for the eagle currently in care, Downing said her recovery is currently “touch and go” depending on how long the lead was in the eagle’s body prior to care.
Patrick Evans, owner of Shelter Point, said that with more than 400 acres, eagles are not a rarity on the property.
“This is not the first eagle to go to MARS and their outstanding team … we were very familiar with the good works those folks do.”
He added Scott Gibson from Vancouver Island Salt was the first person to spot the eagle and its inability to fly.
“We went down to investigate the large critter. Scott went on getting its attention and with a quick throw of his coat, he captured the animal. Scott and MARS are really the ones to be commended.”