It’s surprising to most Americans to hear that their symbol of freedom and independence, the bald eagle, is in serious threat of extinction. Seeing a gliding bald eagle is an amazing sight to be seen. However, the life of a bald eagle is not as graceful as it seems since the contamination of its food sources from all the animal shootings in its habitats. The effects of the contaminated food can be fatal for the bald eagle.
Hunters usually shoot an animal and leave them to die or they gut them and leave the innards or carcass out in nature. The meat being left by the hunters attract carnivores, like bald eagles, who consume the contaminated meat unknowingly.
The contamination is the toxic lead that’s contained in the bullets. The effects of the lead poisoning can be seen in a couple of days which leaves the eagles helpless.
A study done in 2014 has shown that 25% of the 3,000 eagles that died over 30 years died from lead poisoning.
The nervous system is what’s being affected by the lead poisoning in bald eagles. Eagles experience difficulty to stand as their muscles become affected. They may also experience difficulty opening their beaks and are unable to fly. Additional symptoms can be breathing difficulties and gasping tremors. They become thin and weak along with the symptoms and usually, that leads to death.
The animals that are being hunted or scavenged by the bald eagles include elk, pheasants, deer, and waterfowl. Hawks and owls are also affected by lead poisoning.
However, the lead poisoning deaths that are shown for the bald eagles are not new. The bald eagle population is declining since 1963. The decline in the number of bald eagles has been due to the destruction of their habitat, illegal shooting, and pesticide DDT (which also leads to contamination of their food source).
The American government tries its best to stop the decline of the population of bald eagles. Eagles south of the 40th parallel were on the list for endangered species (Endangered Species Preservation Act) in 1967. Pesticide DDT was banned by the government in 1972 and the increase of numbers of bald eagles could be seen.
Bald eagles’ status was improved from endangered to threatened by the year of 1995. The greatest number of bald eagles were recorded in 2007 and it was completely removed from the list of endangered and threatened animals.
On the last day in office, the Obama administration implemented a ban of lead ammunition in the wild. Since then, however, Secretary Ryan Zinke of the Trump administration changed the ban on the lead which was in the act.
The main reason for overturning the lead ban was the cost. Lead bullets are more cost-effective than other ammunitions. Zilne made a statement saying “It worries me to think about hunting and fishing becoming activities for the land-owning elite”.
Wildlife conservation groups want different things to be implemented in wildlife hunting which will stop the potential of lead poisoning such as:
- Selecting non-toxic bullets or slugs
- Remove all shot animals if lead ammunition is being used.
- Hide all piles of gut or remains of the animal bodies by burying them or hiding them with rocks.
- Remove the bullets, slugs, or fragments left in the body of the shot animal.
Bald eagles are amazing creatures that are worth preserving. Make sure you’re doing your part to ensure that these animals remain today and in the future.