U.P. bald eagle suffers from lead poisoning

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UPPER PENINSULA– A bald eagle found in Menominee had a blood lead level that was higher than the instrument to measure would allow, meaning over 65 pico grams. Anything over 5 is considered toxic and anything over 20 is considered likely fatal.

“We got a call about an eagle hanging upside down from a tree down in Menominee,” said Jerry Maynard, Chocolay Raptor Center. “Then the person who observed it says it fell out of the tree and onto the ground. It wasn’t able to fly and I told him how to safely rescue the bird which he did and then I couldn’t go down that evening but the next morning, I went down and brought the bird back.”

Prior to that, the eagle had previously been seen eating a fish on shore but not flying.

The Chocolay Raptor Center examined the bird after picking it up.

“Very depressed,” said Maynard. “Somewhat emaciated and dehydrated. We treated the dehydration and gave it some food. Went to the vet with it and she couldn’t find anything wrong so we suspected by symptoms either West Nile Virus or lead poisoning.”

The eagle was transferred to Wild Instincts in Rhinelander, Wisconsin because the Chocolay Raptor Center doesn’t have the permit or training for long-term care of an eagle. That was on Saturday.

“It’s hanging in there so generally what we see when it’s too high to read on our analyzer typically about 5-percent of those birds actually survive and so there is a lot of critical care that’s involved with that and so right now it’s still very critical but still with us and still handling the treatment,” said Mark Naniot, Wild Instincts.

So far this year, Wild Instincts has treated 24 eagles with lead poisoning. It’s most likely that this eagle was poisoned from lead in fishing tackle in the fish it ate. This can also happen when hunters use lead bullets during deer hunting season.

“Switch to alternative equipment. For your hunting, there are different bullets that are available that are not made of lead,” said Naniot. “And as far as fishing equipment, there is a lot of safer alternatives for jig heads and sinkers. So just kind of think about what we’re doing to our environment and if we can help out our animals by switching to something safer it’s a great way to go.”

If treatment for the eagle goes as expected, he should be at Wild Instincts for the next six to eight weeks and then released back into the Menominee area.

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