Iowa deer hunters could be indirectly harming Iowa’s population of American bald eagles, according to research from a western Iowa bird rehabilitation center.
Kay Newman is director of the Dedham-based group known as SOAR, or Save Our Avian Resources. She says they’re tracking lead poisoning cases in eagles.
"We take in sick and injured wild birds, try to fix whatever’s wrong with them and release them back into the wild," Newman says, "through that, (the lead poisoning) is kind of a monitoring tool as far as what is causing mortality for wild populations."
In recent years, the group has also helped monitor for West Nile virus and for avian flu. Newman says she’s been stunned by the amount of lead poisoning they’re finding in sick and dying bald eagles from across Iowa.
"Over half of the eagles that are coming to us for rehabilitation have abnormal lead levels," Newman says. "They’re ingesting lead. Through a lot of X-ray work, we have found shrapnel in their stomachs, little shards, little pieces of lead."
She says it’s clear how the eagles are becoming poisoned. They’ve X-rayed deer carcasses and have found shrapnel in deer that were evidently wounded by hunters and got away — but later died.
Newman says, "It’s free food for eagles but it’s also got lead shrapnel in it." Newman has been in touch with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to tell them lead is harming our national symbol.
Newman will present a program on the lead poisoning of eagles in Webster City on Sunday, March 8th, at the Hamilton County Conservation Office in Briggs Woods Park. The complete report can be found at the SOAR website .