A Bald Eagle Died of Lead Poisoning in Glacier National Park
Another dead bald eagle was found near Lower McDonald Creek in February in Glacier National Park. In April 2012, park staff found a sub-adult golden eagle carcass in the same area. GNP Spokesperson Lauren Alley says park visitors found the bird.
“They were out skiing earlier this winter and discovered it,” Alley said. “They, rightly so, reported it to park staff. Our biologists were able to go out there and take a look at it. When they arrived, they didn’t see any signs of trauma. There were no gunshot wounds, nothing like that. They ended up sending it to a lab for a necropsy, which found really high levels of lead.”
High lead levels can cause significant damage to the eagle’s brain and nervous system, which makes it difficult for them to hunt and eat. Eagles suffering from lead poisoning are often emaciated, because of their inability to hunt. Alley explained how the lead may have gotten into this eagle’s system.
“Animals can get exposed to that kind of lead level by feeding on carcasses left behind by hunters and ingesting lead ammunition,” Alley said. “Lead is naturally occurring, but it also occurs in the things we use like ammunition or sometimes lead fishing tackles. You can be aware of that when you are out hunting.”
Alley encourages hunters to use non-lead ammunition and to clean up gut piles. Any visitors that see sick or injured wildlife, or animals acting strangely, are asked to please report them to a park employee. Bald eagles are protected by the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.