Bald Eagles Are Dying, and It’s Hunters Who Are Killing Them

by duceditor

At one time, there were as many as 100,000 nesting bald eagles in the U.S.

Photo @ American Eagle Foundation

But bald eagles are still being killed, this time by hunters.

The eagles aren’t blasted out of the sky—they’re dying from lead poisoning, because hunters like to use cheap lead bullets and buckshot when they’re pretending to be sportspeople. The birds ingest the lead when they feed on animals who’ve been gunned down and abandoned or on the “gut piles” that hunters leave behind after slaughtering deer, bears, and other animals who wander into their crosshairs.

A sliver of lead the size of a grain of rice can kill a bald eagle within 72 hours.

Researchers examined 58 dead bald eagles and identified lead exposure as a significant mortality factor/ photo @ USFWS.

Every year, hunters fire off an estimated 3,000 tons of lead in their blood sport. They use another 80,000 tons at shooting ranges. Anglers also add to the death toll: They pollute ponds and streams with some 4,000 tons of lead lures and sinkers every year.

The consequences are deadly: Bald eagles are dying from Oregon to Minnesota to Pennsylvania, where at least five died during a two-week span in August. They don’t die swiftly or mercifully—first, they go blind, sustain brain damage, experience organ failure, and are paralyzed.

Some states and environmental groups have called for the use of lead-free ammunition, but that alone isn’t enough to end these poisonings. A federal ban on the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle in national parks and wildlife refuges was repealed in March. That same day, a bald eagle in Washington state died after battling severe lead poisoning for three weeks.

Hunters often claim that they hunt because they enjoy the outdoors. If that’s true—and if they care about the fate of one of the country’s most recognizable icons—they should stop defending their sick notion of “tradition,” hang up their guns, and go bird-watching, hiking, or kayaking instead.

You may also like