Are Hunters Killing Bald Eagles?

After the drum beat died down over the California condor, anti-hunters rush out a wobbly bald eagle.

The Headline:  Lead Poisoning in Bald Eagles

The Summary: Wisconsin’s WKBT (channel 8) website reports that a sickly bald eagle was found, rescued and taken to Dr. Laura Johnson who diagnosed the raptor with lead poisoning. The article then infers that hunters inadvertently poison eagles when they hunt upland game with lead ammo and subsequently leave the lead-laden gut piles of harvested game in the field to be feasted upon by eagles. 

Jeff’s Take: Here we go again. It’s as if we didn’t predict that anti-hunters would use another rare and beloved animal—this time our national emblem—to advance their political agenda when the California condor drumbeat became faint. This “poison pill” issue is particularly effective for them because there exists no real proof that lead from hunters’ ammo is or is not to blame (but everyone knows that lead is toxic if it enters the bloodstream of living organisms), and it’s difficult to argue on behalf of hunters without being labeled a bald eagle-hater, which of course we are not.

Anti-hunters spin the issue to make the hunting-neutral public believe that they are not against hunting per se, but merely for banning lead shot. Meanwhile they know full well that if hunters are out-priced and can’t afford ammo, a large amount of hunting will cease, jeopardizing its future.

What they may not realize, however, is that hunters pay for the majority of habitat projects via excise taxes, so as hunter numbers dwindle—and therefore their dollars—so too might bald eagles in general.

The AntiQuote: "If those gut piles [from hunter-killed animals] are out in the open and not covered up, eagles are defiantly seeing them and taking advantage of it," says Scott Mehus.

The Smelly-Fish Factor: Most non-hunters who parrot the quote above do not realize what happens when hunters take a game animal during a hunt. In most situations, if it is a small game animal, the animal is gutted at home. If it is a large game animal, the animal died because it was hit in the vitals—not the guts—and if it was hit in the guts, a modern hunting bullet almost always penetrates through the entire animal (it encounters no heavy bones), leaving no lead bullet in the guts.

It should also be noted that eagle population studies show populations steadily rising since 1964 until the present. When lead shot was banned for waterfowl in 1991, no sudden increase in eagle populations is discernable.

Alternate Headline:  Ban It For the Eagles

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