Tuesday, May 10, 2011


...not the verb, but the noun. This bird (1st image) did not get shot directly, but died from ingesting the lead shot used by hunters to kill other game. Bald eagles and other birds scavenge from the entrails left when deer, for instance, are gutted in the field. They also eat mammals shot with lead and fish that have swallowed lead weights. The wildfowl inadvertently supplement their diet with the lead (2nd image), which affects the central nervous system, so that even if they are found before it kills them, the effects often cannot be reversed (photos and videos here). Rescued birds are severely underweight because their digestive systems have stopped working and they have lost their ability to walk or fly. They may need to be restrained if they go into convulsions, but excessive handling itself can cause them to die of stress. The poisoned bird is medicated and its blood is chelated, but a majestic bird with a lifespan of 30 years can be killed by lead poisoning in a matter of weeks. Scott Mehus of the National Eagle Center says, "[B]y the time that these birds are found with lead poisoning, it's so debilitating at that point that it's unfortunately a death sentence..." It's not an anti-hunting message - its about using alternative ammunitions crafted from copper, bismuth, tungsten and nickel. "It's so sad to see bald eagles dying from lead, and if we don't talk about it, it's going to keep happening," says Terese Evans of Iowa's Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project.

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