Jul 22, 2019 | Updated: 09:15 AM EDT

The Mass Suffering of Bald Eagles Due to Lead Poisoning

Jun 17, 2019 11:29 AM EDT

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The bald eagle is the United States of America's symbol as it represents freedom and independence. However, ironically, bald eagles are disappearing all over the country.

The species is almost facing extinction as their food source is being poisoned. Extremely dangerous chemicals are released in their habitats causing them a painful death. When a bald eagle was brought to a wildlife rehabilitation center, he wasn't even able to hold his head up.

"His head was upside down when we got him. Lead affects the nerves, so that's your brain, your use of muscles, all parts of the body. The birds often cannot stand ... They usually have difficulty breathing. They cannot even open their beaks," says Lynn Tompkins, executive director of Blue Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center in Oregon.

 

And what's even more sad it's that many other bird species are being affected by the manufactures negligence. As Tompkins declared: "We're finding it in more and more species. We started off with eagles but now we're also testing hawks, owls and other birds." As for those birds who were affected but managed to survive, it takes a few months until they are fully rehabilitated.

"We had one eagle whose lead level was relatively low, but she was paralyzed, she couldn't stand, she couldn't unclench her feet," Tomkins said. "It took several treatments to get the lead level down. It took several months for her to fly normally again. It took six months. That was a long time."

Unfortunately, the latest eagle who was brought into the center will never have the chance to fly again. Even after days of treatment. "This particular bird, every once in a while, he'd get startled and flap his wing out of fear, and then he'd stop. The treatment cannot reach the lead that's already gotten into other tissues," Tompkins explained.

"So far this year we've had three bald eagles come into the center - all of them had toxic levels of lead. It [the lead] is toxic. There's no argument about that," she added.

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