(KMSP) - It’s a sobering statistic, roughly one out of four Minnesota bald eagles test positive for toxic levels of lead, with about 80 percent of the state’s population testing positive for some level of lead exposure.
University of Minnesota researchers say it’s largely to lead ammunition used by deer hunters. Bald eagles have learned to associate hunter’s gunfire with food and will wait for the hunter’s “gut pile.” It’s in that pile that wildlife experts say the eagles are inadvertently consuming lead fragments that build up over time.
“You’ll see birds that are struggling to breathe, their gastrointestinal system is shutting down, they have neurological problems, it permeates the body and is very toxic,” said Dr. Julia Ponder, with the University of Minnesota’s ‘Raptor Center.’
Ponder and others are urging hunters this season to use copper bullets instead.
“The ballistics are good, the price is comparable to premium lead ammunition and it doesn’t kill a second time,” said Ponder.