Menominee Eagle Recovering from Severe Lead Poisoning
08/13/2019- A bald eagle nesting nearing Henes Park is getting a second chance thanks to quick action and a whole lot of courage from one resident. Families in the area have been watching the bird and its mate for most of the summer, but recently noticed something wasn’t quite right with the raptor. Jerry Maynard, President of the Chocolay Raptor Center in Marquette says the bird was spotted hanging upside down from a tree and that’s when a resident contacted him for help. Maynard was able to coach the individual through retrieving the eagle and housing it safely for the evening until Maynard could get to Menominee to assess it. Though it was dehydrated and malnourished, initial tests didn’t reveal any obvious causes; but after the eagle was transferred to another rehabilitation facility in Wisconsin, it was discovered his lead levels were off the charts.
“The first thing he did was take a blood sample because he’s got his own blood lead analyzer…and it was over 65 which is the upper limit that his instrument can measure. Less than 5 is considered normal, but in eagles, over 20 is considered toxic and an emergency that needs immediate treatment and this bird had over 65.”
Maynard says lead poisoning in eagles is most common in the fall and early winter, coinciding with the deer hunting seasons in our region. In this case, however, it’s believed the bird was exposed to lead through fishing tackle that may have contaminated a fish it ate.
“Bald eagles are great fisher birds. They eat a lot of fish and of course there is a fair amount of lead that’s still in use in fishing tackle, so it’s possible that there was some lead in the fish, the eagle got it and it can actually become toxic pretty quickly. Fishing tackle is probably the second-most common source of lead exposure to wildlife.”
The eagle is now undergoing treatment to remove the lead from its system and will then go through several weeks of conditioning to rebuild its strength and stamina. Maynard is hopeful the bird will be released this fall and says it’s likely he’ll be brought right back home to Henes Park.