Researchers all over the United States are finding eagles with disturbing levels of lead in their blood.
Jordan Spyke from the Montana Raptor Conservation Center said that his team has detected dangerous lead levels in many different animals that come through the wildlife reserve.
“They come in with different injuries or they come in with acute lead poisoning. So, we test all eagles’ blood that come through and almost every eagle we see has lead poisoning,” Spyke told ABC News.
Spyke said that six raptor eagles have been through the conservation center and every single one of them has tested positive for high levels of lead. Half of the eagles that were found had to be euthanized because their condition was so bad.
“All the lead that the raptors that are ingesting are human-introduced into the environment,” Spyke explains.
Researchers believe that lead is getting into fish, deer, and other prey because of lead fishing lures or lead in bullets. Even if a hunter takes the meat from a dear, lead is often left behind in the remains, which is then eaten by scavengers or predators.
Dr. Jennifer Riley at the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center in Boyce, Virginia, has also been noticing a similar trend in her area.
“Anywhere from about a quarter to about a half of our eagle patients actually come in with physical lead still in their stomachs, so that’s how we kind of know what’s causing it. In children, we talk about lead paint, and plastic toys, and batteries, and things like that, but these guys are eating things that are covered in meat, so typically that’s going to be ammunition that’s covered in meat or sinkers that are covered in fish,” Riley explained.
Riley also said that her team at the wildlife center is testing all of the birds that they encounter and last winter they discovered that over 90% of eagles and 85% of vultures had some level of lead in their blood.