A wildlife rehab center has seen a record number of eagles as their population grows

The population of bald eagles in America has made a remarkable recovery from being endangered in the 1960s, with the numbers increasing significantly. However, this increase has led to challenges, as many eagles now compete for habitat with humans, often resulting in injuries such as being hit by cars or poisoning from lead.

In Virginia, the Wildlife Center of Virginia has witnessed a record number of eagle patients in recent years. Dr. Karra Pierce, a veterinarian at the center, shared that many of these eagles are hit by cars while scavenging on the side of the road. Last year alone, the center admitted 66 bald eagles, a number they are on track to match this year.

Another major concern for bald eagles is lead poisoning. Their acidic stomachs react with lead, causing them to absorb the toxic metal. As a result, three out of every four eagles treated at the center test positive for lead in their blood. The American Eagle Foundation warns that even a grain of rice-sized lead fragment can be fatal to a bald eagle.

Lead poisoning primarily affects an eagle’s brain, impairing its ability to avoid cars. Federal agencies and researchers suspect that ammunition used by hunters is the primary cause of this poisoning, but other factors could be involved as well. Federal attempts to ban lead ammunition have so far been unsuccessful in Congress.

To treat lead poisoning, the Wildlife Center of Virginia uses medications to remove the lead from the eagles’ blood so they can excrete it. If the treatment is successful, the eagle goes through rehabilitation and is eventually released back into the wild. Last year, the center released only nine bald eagles, with the other 57 either dying or being euthanized due to their injuries.

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