The eagle was brought to WildCare because of the organization’s unique credentials.
“We are the largest wildlife rehab organization in the state,” WildCare Director Rondi Large said. “We take in 5,000 animals a year, and WildCare has been in existence for 28 years. There are only two organizations in the state that are allowed to take in bald and golden eagles for rehabilitation. The other is the Iowa Tribe in Perkins. Their organization is the Gray Snow Eagle Aviary and they only do eagles.”
“Not only did it have acute poisoning from brodifacoum, but it also had acute lead toxicity,” Carter said.
Lead shot or lead-based fishing sinkers in streams and lakes create lead toxicity, Large said.
“The ducks eat that and they start dying of lead poisoning, which makes them weak, and that’s when the eagles pick them up,” she said. “We’ve also gotten eagles in that had ingested lead shot. That lead is leaching out into the ground and the water while it sits there.”
Hunters have changed ammunition and are supposed to use non-toxic shot now instead of lead, but Large and Carter are concerned about the lead that is still leaching into state water sources.
“It’s tragic when our national emblem can’t survive in its environment,” Carter said. “Eagles survive on fish and small mammals.”
Bald eagles are more common in the state than some people may realize.
“We have lots of eagles. Some of them stay around, some of them pass through,” said Capt. David Deckard, of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“They’re a migrating species,” Bryant said. “We have them pretty much year-round, but during the migration period, their numbers will increase.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will perform its own lab tests as part of the investigation. The lab results obtained by Carter were done at Michigan State University.
Sadly, eagle deaths are not uncommon.
Last Thursday, an eagle found in McClain County was likely accidentally electrocuted, according to state wildlife officials. The Center for Biological diversity (www.biologicaldivirsity.org) put the number of breeding bald eagles in Oklahoma in 2007 when it was removed from the endangered species list at 60.