PORTLAND – Veterinarians from the Portland Audubon Society treated a bald eagle suffering from severe lead poisoning last month.
The Audubon Society got a call on May 13 about a 3-foot-tall eagle in Longview, Wash. that was unable to fly. After a blood test, veterinarians learned the eagle was suffering from lead poisoning it most likely got from eating animals shot with lead ammunition.
“Reducing wild animals’ exposure to lead in Oregon is one of our long-term goals,” said Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon conservation manager in a press release to KGW. “And getting a handle on how many local birds are being affected and killed by the toxin is an important first step.”
Lead poisoning damages birds nervous and digestive systems and causes paralysis and seizures. Some birds die without showing symptoms of poisoning.
The bald eagle at the Audubon Society is going through chelation therapy where it is getting injected with a substance that binds the lead and bundles it into a form the body can pass out.
Portland Audubon veterinarian Deb Sheaffer said the bird’s lead levels were so high, even a small delay in treatment could have been fatal.
The Audubon’s care center is testing other birds that come through the door for lead poisoning. The Portland-area birds most likely to eat the remains of animals shot with lead ammunition, ingesting fragments of ammunition along with the carcasses, Sheaffer said.
“Lead has been banned from paint, gasoline and plumbing pipes,” Sallinger said. “We’ve known for decades that it is toxic to wildlife and humans, but it’s still legal to use lead ammunition in our state.”
Accumulated lead poisoning is also the most severe obstacle to the comeback of endangered California condors, a species the zoo is helping to recover at its Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, the Audubon Society said.
On May 29, Police captured a young red-tailed hawk in downtown Portland that was also reportedly suffering from lead poisoning. That hawk was released Wednesday.