Second bald eagle found on island suffering from lead poisoning

Feb 22, 2020
Photo by: Knox County Sheriff's Office A bald eagle waits in transit to Avian Haven in Freedom after it was rescued on North Haven Feb. 21.

North Haven — The second bald eagle suffering from lead poisoning was taken to an avian shelter Friday thanks to the efforts of numerous people.

Knox County Sheriff Deputy Daniel Landers was contacted Feb. 21 for the second time this week for the report of a possibly sick or injured eagle while he was on patrol in Vinalhaven, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Kelly Adams of North Haven was delivering UPS/FedEx packages on her daily delivery schedule and noticed the eagle very close to the edge of the roadway near the island's airstrip, the Sheriff's Office reported. She thought it was unusual that the bird didn't fly away when she drove within a dozen feet of it.

Shortly afterwards, she contacted Deputy Landers who responded to the area but didn't immediately see the bird. Deputy Landers contacted Game Warden Justin Fowlie, who requested that an area search be performed on foot. Deputy Landers located the bird about a quarter mile away near the wood line of the airstrip.

Similar to the eagle earlier in the week, the bird couldn't fly more than a few dozen feet at a time. Deputy Landers called for the assistance of the North Haven Fire Department who were able to surround the bird and capture it.

Pilot Roger Robertson of Penobscot Island Air flew to North Haven so the eagle could be quickly evacuated to Avian Haven in the Waldo County town of Freedom.

Based on the behavior of the eagle, Diane Winn of Avian Haven believes the bird is likely suffering from toxic lead poisoning, the Sheriff's Office reported. This is the seventh eagle in many weeks that has been admitted to the wildlife refuge for lead poisoning.

According to Avian Haven's Facebook page, this eagle's blood lead level is not as high as that of the previous bird, and is not high enough at this time to be acutely life-threatening. The level, however, is sufficient enough to create impaired stamina and coordination, and high enough to warrant giving the eagle chelation, which bonds to heavy metals and may remove lead from the system.

Avian Haven reported the bird also had a fracture in the tip of his left wing. The injury limited his flight sufficiently to allow capture, but the prognosis for recovery of flight is guarded at best.

"We don't know if there is any connection between the lead exposure and the wing fracture; all we can say is that the injury does not appear to be especially recent," according to the shelter's Facebook post.

"We are very grateful to Deputy Landers and members of the North Haven Fire Department for capturing the bird this afternoon. We also send huge thanks to Penobscot Island Air for flying the bird to the mainland so that he did not have to wait several hours for the ferry," the Facebook post stated.

The eagle rescued Feb. 19 from North Haven died Friday morning.

"How you can help end this senseless suffering for Maine's Bald Eagles: contact your State Senators, Representatives, Governor Mills, IF&W. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper.

"Making lead ammunition illegal might be a long way off in the State of Maine, but one thing that could be done fairly quickly is to regulate the proper disposal of the potentially toxic remains of all game killed with lead ammo – carcasses, gut piles, waste meat from game butchers, some of which is used as coyote bait.

"If this meat could be kept out of the field, the problem for eagles would pretty much disappear. So you could propose that to your legislators as an interim solution.

"Hunters can also, of course, voluntarily choose non-lead ammo, both bullets and shot pellets (as well as non-lead fishing gear), which is better for eagles, loons, children, everyone, the environment. Many hunters are still unaware of the danger, so spread the word, share with your friends who still hunt with lead.

"Be bold! This is the eighth bald eagle to arrive at Avian Haven with lead poisoning since Jan. 1. None of the others survived," Avian Haven stated in its Feb. 21 post.

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