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Energy & Environment

Lead Poisoning Causes Death, Sickness For Northwoods Eagles

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A wildlife rehabber near Rhinelander has seen a marked increase recently in eagles coming to his facility who are deathly ill from ingesting lead.

Mark Naniot of Wild Instincts says in the last week they've had three lead-poisoned eagles come in...

"..Took in one yesterday that came in from the Vilas-Iron county line. That one had some fragments in the stomach. Most likely lead, can't say for sure, but probably is, that one topped out our analyzer so too high to read. We had one come in six days before that. That one was too high to read. That was a young, 2 year old bird. That one was very starved by the time we got it and unfortunately that one did not survive. We also took in one last night from the Rhinelander area...."

He says the eagles ingest lead left from shotgun pellets or lead in fishing lures. Naniot says they support people who enjoy hunting and fishing but he says they would like to see it done safer.

He says they can help some sick eagles, but when the lead level gets high and the birds come in emaciated, they're in trouble. Naniot says there are many types of alternatives for lead in hunting and fishing..

"...They make different things for lead jighead and sinker replacements that are non-toxic, and the same thing with steel shot for shotguns, or copper bullets for deer hunting or whatever you're using. There are alternatives that are out there..."

Naniot says we've taken the lead out of paint and gasoline and he hopes we can take it out of hunting and fishing equipment and make it safer for the wild animals. He says lead stays in the deer meat that is harvested, it also stays in the gut pile. He says chickadees, turkey vultures and other birds also feed on the carcass and get sick.

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