Lead bullets poisoning bald eagles throughout Nova Scotia

Click to play video '3rd eagle brought to NS rehab centre with lead poisoning in 3 weeks prompts call for change to hunters’ ammo' 3rd eagle brought to NS rehab centre with lead poisoning in 3 weeks prompts call for change to hunters’ ammo
WATCH ABOVE: Lead poisoning is common in bald eagles during the end of hunting season. Three have been taken in during the past three weeks at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Brookfield, N.S. Alexa MacLean reports – Mar 16, 2017

A concerning number of bald eagles are being treated for lead poisoning at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

“Some of them will die right away, some of them are just laying down for days before they have the strength to stand up,” Helene Van Doninck said, a veterinarian and co-founder of the centre with her husband.

Three bald eagles have been brought into the centre since the end of February.

READ MORE: B.C. photographer captures rescue of bald eagle trapped in snare

While Doninck says lead poisoning is a common occurrence during hunting season, three in three weeks is an unusually high number.

“I want the public to know that this is indeed an issue,” she said.

Bald eagles are birds of prey and Doninck says they get lead poisoning from eating animal carcasses containing lead.

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“Lead in any form getting into the food chain is a bad thing,” Doninck said.

Doninck has been working with the hunting community to raise awareness around the impact of lead.

One of the connections she’s made is with David MacKay, a hunter and owner of MacKay’s Wild Outdoor Shop in Brookfield, N.S.

MacKay says he encourages his customers to purchase non-poisonous copper products.

“Over time I think the general population will start seeing it from the proper perspective and realize how much damage we’re doing with the lead,” MacKay said.

MacKay says most hunters are willing to purchase non-lead products when they realize the impact it’s having on the eagle population.

He says the government has made somewhat of an effort to control the amount of lead being used by banning its use for waterfowl hunting.
“The biggest reason for that [ban] was, you were using what we would call bird shot, so little small BBs inside the case. When that was fired, not all of them would hit the duck or the goose, some would drop in the water so then the fish were eating it,” MacKay said.

Doninck encourages all hunters to move away from using lead products so that they don’t unintentionally poison bald eagles or other wildlife.