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 that has high blood poisoning, said Gylaine Andersen, manager of wildlife rehabilitation with the Merville-based organizations that helps orphaned, ill or injured birds and wildlife.
“She was very weak, but we have seen a little bit of improvement since she came in.”
Andersen noted MARS performed a blood test once they received the eagle in their care. In this case, the reading came back high for lead poisoning and began a calcium treatment via injection into her muscle. The organization is expecting to do several rounds of treatment on the eagle.
“The goal is to see a full recovery; we are quite guarded but we would like her to be released,” said Anderson. “In some cases, (lead poisoning) can cause chronic problems with organs. In this case, we think it’s acute.”
Late last year, MARS received an eagle that staff immediately suspected had 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 travel 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 staff are 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.”
Andersen explained the organization is seeing quite a few lead poisoning cases – particularly in late winter/early spring.
“Some birds pick up fragments of lead when they’re finding pebbles as a digestive aid. Doves and waterfowl find it when they’re grazing lakes and ponds.”
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.”