Golden Eagle Dies of Lead Poisoning

Written by on April 16, 2019

Lead poisoning has killed a golden eagle in Yellowstone National Park.

The raptor was found dead on December 6th, near Phantom Lake in the northern section of the Park. A lab necropsy found that level of lead in the golden eagle were extremely high and well over lethal toxicity. 

The adult female was the first golden eagle in Yellowstone’s history to be marked with a radio transmitter, and was part of a study to understand productivity, movements, survival, and cause of death in Yellowstone. The study is being conducted and funded by Yellowstone National Park, University of Montana, Yellowstone Forever, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Transmitter data revealed that the eagle ranged extensively north of the park during the 2018 autumn hunting season. Because hunter-provided carrion, especially gut piles, is an important food resource for golden eagles, the lead levels indicated it likely ate carrion that contained lead fragments. 

Studies by Craighead Beringia South, a non-profit research institute based in Kelly, Wyoming, have shown that fragmented bullets often stay in the discarded remains of wild game, so they enter the food chain as they are consumed by other animals.

Experts say non-lead ammunition is safer for birds.


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