The bald eagle population in the United States has been significantly affected by lead poisoning, eaten by the animals from ammunition left behind by hunters, a new study has found.
The study, from Cornell University’s Department of Public Health and Ecosystems, found bald eagle population growth declined by 4-6%, based on data collected between 1990 and 2018. .
Scientists examined bald eagle populations in seven northeastern states and found that some were affected by hunters leaving behind contaminated organs after dressing an animal in the field. This affects bald eagles and other animals which may later feed on whatever remains of the carcass as they may consume lead fragments left in the meat.
“We present the eagles as a kind of poster for this problem, but they are not the only ones to be affected”, Krysten Schuler, research professor for Cornell, said.
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The size of the bald eagle population has quadrupled in the past decade, but researchers have warned that “some disturbances” could lead to further population decline.
The Cornell study estimates that bald eagle growth rates were suppressed by 4.2% for females and 6.3% for males.
Bald eagles have seen their population plummet over the years, with the species being listed as endangered in the Endangered Species Act 1973, but later delisted in 2007. The animal is still a protected species in the United States. Killing one can result in a felony charge, up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In March 2021, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that there were over 316,000 bald eagles in the United States.
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