Sadly, it was too late.

Sadly, it was too late. “The Christmas Eagle” (so named by BHRC) is yet another in what has become an increasingly long line of raptor deaths that can be avoided if hunters will make one small change.

Many hunters, after they kill an animal, immediately field dress it, then leave the innards out in the open. The gut piles attract eagles and other scavengers, who then feast on the remains. Hunters may believe they’re doing the birds a favor by leaving them food, but nothing could be farther from the truth, for hidden within the innards is a silent killer: lead.

Most hunters use lead shot. When raptors eat the animal remains left behind, they ingest the shot that killed the animal along with the innards. The lead shot breaks down and accumulates in the bird’s body, until the bird becomes very ill and, often, dies.

In the last 24 years, over 500 eagles received at the Raptor Center in Minnesota died due to lead poisoning, and it has been proven that lead ammunition was the cause. Five hundred eagles! That’s an average of more than 20 birds per year! And that’s just at one facility!

There are alternatives to using lead ammunition to hunt, including bullets made from copper, tungsten, and metal alloys. Unfortunately, the alternatives are slightly more expensive and, even though ballistics tests have shown that alternative ammunition materials have the same performance and effectiveness as lead (even the U.S. military is transitioning to non-lead ammunition), hunters are reluctant to make the change. So our raptors continue to eat lead shot, suffer, and die.

Hunters, one small, responsible act can make a big difference! Please switch to non-lead ammo! Be the change!

Learn more: (1) (2) Lallanilla, Marc. “Will ‘Green Bullets’ Ruin Hunting?” LiveScience, 19 Dec. 2013.

Sources: Photo credit: Black Hills Raptor Center, Rapid City, SD.

(1) Gibbens, Sarah. “Poisoned Bald Eagle Highlights Lead Bullet Controversy.” National Geographic. 8 Dec. 2017. 

(2) Cirino, Erica. “New Federal Lead Rule Will Have Hunters and Fishers Looking to Safer Alternatives.” Audubon. 1 Feb. 2017.

(3) Raptor Center. “Lead Poisoning.” University of Minnesota.