Bald Eagle population growth has been slowed by lead poisoning brought on by gun ammo: Study

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A new study says that the population of America’s bird, the bald eagle, has been stunted due to lead poisoning, CBS News reported.

Scientists at the Department of Public and Ecosystem Health at Cornell University report in their study that after looking at records between 1990 and 2018 they found the bald eagles are eating hunters’ gunshot ammunition, which is causing their population to decrease growth by 4% to 6%, CBS News reported.

“Even though the population seems like it’s recovered, some perturbation could come along that could cause eagles to decline again,” researchers said.

When a bald eagle eats the remains of the ammo or lead in large quantities, it has harmful effects on the animal’s nervous and reproductive systems, The Hill reported. According to The Hill, Poisoned Bald Eagles can experience loss of balance, tremors, and impaired flight ability, which eventually leads to death.

The study, published by Journal of Wildlife ManagementAccording to, scientists looked at Northeastern species population and determined that hunters were responsible for the majority of them. “field dress” their prey and leave the contaminated remains of their ammo on site put the eagles that scavenge at risk, according to CBS News.

The study also suggests that other species, including owls, crows, deer, rabbits, coyotes, foxes, fish and bears, eat the remains as well, meaning they are all possibly at risk of being poisoned.

“We haven’t collected data on these other species in the same way that we pay attention to eagles,” Krysten Schuler, assistant research professor in the Department of Public and Ecosystem Health at Cornell University and senior author on the study, told CBS News. “We’re putting eagles out there as a poster species for this issue, but they’re not the only ones being impacted.”

Famously, Bald eagles once walked on the brink of extinction. According to The Hill, in 1960, 417 nesting pairs were known for the species.

According to The Hill the species has made a recovery thanks to federal protections over decades and the ban on pesticides in 1970s.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that 316,700 bald Eagles were living in the United States.

Despite being taken off the endangered species lists in 2007, the national bird is still protected. A felony charge could be filed against anyone who hunts or kills bald eagles. This could lead to two years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000.  

 

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