Lead can pose dangers to Raptors

CHOCOLAY TOWNSHIP — Last week, the Chocolay Raptor Center rescued a bald eagle that was suffering from lead poisoning. This bird is one of many nationwide that will be treated for lead poisoning.

“Lead poisoning is a big issue throughout the country as it relates to raptors,” said Jerry Maynard with the Chocolay Raptor Center. “It takes a very little amount of lead to make a big bird or big raptor very, very ill, or even kill them.”

It only takes 5 picograms of lead to infect a raptor with lead poisoning.

“The eagle we got last week does have a toxic level of lead at 11 picograms.”

Above 10 is considered toxic. Lead poisoning in raptors occurs primarily as a result hunting. When a lead bullet is shot into an animal, small amounts of lead can enter the animal’s body. Any part of that animal eaten can transfer the lead poisoning to whatever is eating it.

“A lot of hunters think they’re doing them a favor, leaving them in the woods for the raptors or other scavengers, but actually it can cause lead poisoning,” said Maynard.

There are steps being taken to help prevent lead poisoning in raptors and other animals alike. One of the easier ways to get the ball rolling is to ban all lead ammunition.

“It’s actually getting more common, California, a couple of years ago, banned all lead ammo, primarily because the California Condor, which is an endangered species, was getting exposed to lead.”

States like North Dakota have also banned led ammunition, but only on state land. Copper ammunition, while slightly more expensive, can be much less harmful to those that choose to feast on a dead animal.

It’s a start, but there’s a long way to go to ensure the safety of raptors and other scavengers out in the wild.