Wildlife advocates are urging hunters to reconsider some of their hunting practices, especially those that harm eagles and other wildlife long after hunters have left the area.
Haida Gwaii Animal Helpline volunteer Leila Riddall says there has been an increase in the number of eagles getting sick from ingesting lead.
When an eagle ingests lead, it cannot function properly, and in some cases cannot fly.
“They are unable to hunt, and that’s usually when we meet them when they’re weak and can’t fly,” she said. “They are usually quite emaciated at this stage.”
Riddall said hunters leave out deer carcasses that have been contaminated with lead ammunition. When the eagles feed on the carcass, they ingest the lead.
According to the Oklahoma-based George Miksch Sutton Avian Research Center, consuming small amounts of lead from lead shot or lead-core bullets, which make up most traditional ammunition, is enough to kill an eagle. adult white-headed.
Rob Hope, executive director of the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in Delta, B.C., said it’s a problem across the province, not just in Haida Gwaii.
“This is a problem that can be solved quite easily by simply changing ammunition, not only for animal safety and health, but also for human health,” he told CBC. sunrise north.
He said eagles suffering from lead poisoning often die. If they are put on treatment early enough, they are treated, hydrated, have time to rest and can recover.
“Unfortunately, more often than not they don’t recover and perish.”
His organization has begun collecting data on how many eagles their facility receives that have ingested lead. They take blood samples from each eagle that appears to be suffering from symptoms of lead poisoning to figure out how much they consumed and note the time of year the animal was in their care.
“Usually we start to see it really picking up from November to February,” he said – during or shortly after hunting season in British Columbia. for many species.
The goal is to be able to show hunters that their lead ammunition has adverse effects on wildlife, Hope said, and will ideally encourage them to consider using other types of ammunition.
“For everyone [hunter] that rocks, that’s one less we have to worry about having lead in the environment,” he said.
Riddall said that in his part of the country, alternatives to lead ammunition aren’t always readily available, making it difficult for hunters to switch.
Hope admits that lead ammunition costs less, and some hunters worry about how their firearms will be affected by lead-free bullets.
If lead-free ammunition isn’t an option, he suggests hunters dispose of carcasses before leaving an area by burning or burying them.
“Any of these methods will minimize and deter animals from foraging what they see.”