DETROIT – A study of more than 30 years of data on bald eagles in Michigan shows the leading causes of death for the iconic national bird are being hit by cars and lead poisoning.
The study was conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan State University and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. It reviewed the cause of death for almost 1,500 eagles from 1986 to 2017, according to The Detroit Free Press.
After vehicular trauma, the leading cause of death was lead poisoning, which is related to eagles ingesting ammunition fragments from animals shot by hunters.
James Sikarskie, a retired professor from Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, was a co-author of the study.
“If they eat enough lead, it will kill them, just like kids with lead paint,” he said. “Lead poisoning causes damage to the liver and kidneys, and the treatment to draw the toxin out, chelation, is also traumatic on them.”
Michigan officials said they encourage non-lead ammunition. Some states have banned lead for some types of hunting. California bans it for all hunting.
DNR spokesman Ed Golder said it’s a hunter preference partly because non-lead ammunition is more expensive.