A USGS study shows that bald eagles and golden eagles suffer from widespread and frequent lead poisoning.

A USGS study shows that bald eagles and golden eagles suffer from widespread and frequent lead poisoning.

Bald eagles and golden eagles suffer from widespread and frequent lead poisoning, according to a new USGS study.

The first-of-its-kind eight-year study involved experts who took blood samples from 1,210 eagles in 38 US states, including Alaska, between 2010 and 2018.

According to the scientists behind the study, the legendary birds of prey are not on the radar of hunters but are eating downed deer, who say dead carcasses contaminated by bullets are reducing their numbers.

Poisoning at the levels found in the study results in a 3.8% slowdown in population growth rates for bald eagles and 0.8% for golden eagles per year.

“Studies have shown lethal effects on individual birds, but this is the first study to demonstrate the effects of lead poisoning on these majestic species at the population level on such a large scale,” said Ann Kinsinger, USGS Associate Director of Ecosystems.

This has implications for other species, including humans whose health can be affected by eating fragmented bullets inside game, which have urged hunters to use copper bullets instead, the researchers said.

Bald eagles and golden eagles suffer from widespread and frequent lead poisoning, according to a new USGS study.  stock images

Bald eagles and golden eagles suffer from widespread and frequent lead poisoning, according to a new USGS study. stock images

The furry, ferocious-eyed bald eagle has been the national symbol of the United States since 1782, and although its numbers have increased in recent years, it is still in danger.

Their population growth in the northeast is reduced by six percent due to the fact that the birds eat firearms from the organs of other animals left in place after they were shot by hunters.

Lead author Dr. Todd Katzner, a USGS wildlife biologist, said: “This is the first nationwide study of lead poisoning in wildlife.

“It demonstrates the invisible challenges that these birds of prey face. We now know more about how lead in the environment negatively impacts North American eagles,” explained Dr. Katzner.

Both bald eagles and golden eagles are scavengers and use dead animals as a food source all year round, especially during the winter months when prey is hard to come by.

Lead poisoning usually occurs when an eagle ingests fragments of lead ammunition lodged inside an animal carcass or in gut piles. They remain after the hunter “dresses” the downed deer, leaving the infected internal organs in place.

The incidence of chronic lead poisoning increases with age. It accumulates in the bones as eagles are constantly exposed to heavy metals throughout their lives.

Trail cameras also captured owls, crows, coyotes, foxes and bears gathering downed game, suggesting they may also be suffering from lead poisoning.

In the first-of-its-kind eight-year study, experts took blood samples from 1,210 eagles in 38 US states, including Alaska, between 2010 and 2018.

In the first-of-its-kind eight-year study, experts took blood samples from 1,210 eagles in 38 US states, including Alaska, between 2010 and 2018.

BALD EAGLE

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a bird of prey native to North America.

Its range includes most of Canada and Alaska, all adjacent territories of the United States, and northern Mexico.

The bird is found near large open bodies of water, which also have a plentiful supply of food and old trees for nesting.

It feeds mainly on fish, swooping in and snatching it out of the water, but it feeds on opportunistic pathogens.

It is the national bird of the United States and is featured on the seal.

Once this bird was on the verge of extinction in the US, but after pesticides were banned in North America, their numbers have changed.

Co-author Brian Millsap, National Fish and Wildlife Service Predator Coordinator, said: “Study simulations show that lead reduces the population growth rate of both of these protected species.

“This is not so important for bald eagles, since the population of this endemic species is growing at 10% per year throughout the US.

“On the contrary, the golden eagle population is not as stable and any additional mortality could sway it to decline.”

The bald eagle became a global environmental pin in the 1960s and 1970s when their numbers plummeted due to exposure to the pesticide DDT.

After the ban on pesticides half a century ago, the bird began to recover, at first gradually, and then with increasing force.

In 2007, the US Fish and Wildlife Service removed the bald eagle from the federal endangered species list.

There are over 316,000 bald eagles in the continental United States, including over 70,000 breeding pairs.

This is more than four times the 72,434 individuals and 30,548 pairs recorded in 2009 and more than seven times the number in 2007.

However, experts fear that we may soon see a decline in bird populations due to lead poisoning from hunting bullets.

If the deer or other animal is not killed immediately and runs away, the eagles will find it and swallow the lead. Once in the gastrointestinal tract, it becomes toxic.

Lead poisoning can cause seizures and lead to a lack of judgment, which increases the risk of being hit by a car.

According to the American Bird Conservation Organization, millions of birds in the United States are poisoned by lead each year.

According to the scientists behind the study, the legendary birds of prey are not on the radar of hunters but are eating downed deer, who say dead carcasses contaminated by bullets are reducing their numbers.  stock images

According to the scientists behind the study, the legendary birds of prey are not on the radar of hunters but are eating downed deer, who say dead carcasses contaminated by bullets are reducing their numbers. stock images

Lead poisoning increases during deer season. The only solution is to educate hunters about the importance of using non-lead ammunition.

Copper bullets can be bought online, but are more expensive and hard to find in stores.

The Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act, passed in 1940, prohibits the possession, sale, or hunting of the birds.

A separate 2021 study found that bald eagles are also threatened by the poison used to kill rats.

Over 80 percent of dead bald eagles and golden eagles surveyed between 2014 and 2018 were found to have rodenticides in their bodies.

The results were published in the journal Science.

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