Eagle population growing, but finding new, human danger

WASHINGTON — They are a national symbol of beauty, strength and long life.  And thanks to a ban on the pesticide DDT and the Endangered Species Act, bald eagles are nesting and reproducing in Virginia in record numbers — especially along the James River.

“We not only have eagles that reproduce here, we get a ton of eagles that come down and winter along the northern neck area”, says Amanda Nicholson, Director of outreach for the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

But she says eagles have new risks of becoming sick or injured because of human related activities.   One big problem:  lead toxicity.  “If a hunter dresses his kill in the field and leaves behind a gut pile, there can be tiny, tiny pieces of lead fragments in that.  The eagles are scavengers and they’ll eat the gut pile,”  said Nicholson. Those fragments can ultimately kill the birds without proper treatment.

In addition, eagles are also showing up sick from eating trash and litter.  “This poor bird came in with pieces of cardboard, paper, soda can tab, a push pin, some other little bits of plastic and two balloons,” she says.

So far this year, the center has treated 21 sick bald eagles, with 10 in their care right now.

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