Lead poisoning blamed in bald eagle deaths

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Pictured: Charleston bald eagle (deceased) Pictured: Charleston bald eagle (deceased)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WAND) – U of I workers say lead poisoning has killed three bald eagles in central Illinois.

The school’s College of Veterinary Medicine treated three eagles in a span of two weeks. They came from Decatur, Lowpoint and Charleston, with each death coming after the birds showed signs of “neurologically inappropriate behavior”, such an as difficulty with standing or eating.

“It is very unusual to have received a third lead-positive bald eagle in just over two weeks—and the second one to have extremely high lead levels—during a season that I wouldn’t expect there to be a large amount of lead ingestion,” said Dr. Sarah Reich, a veterinarian who works at the U of I Wildlife Medical Clinic.

Dr. Reich says lead poisoning becomes a serious concern between October and January, when animals eat others that died from gunshots or lead sinkers used by people who fish.

The latest eagle to die is pictured in the photo attached to this story. Veterinarians say they originally found that bird in Charleston. It had signs of lead poisoning and a puncture wound in its eye, which they believe happened from an interaction with another eagle.

It lost its life on Friday morning. Veterinarians say that eagle, along with the one found in Decatur, had lead levels described as “off the charts”. 

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