“Eagle rises to the top of the precipice with its wings; man, to the top of the honour, with his morals!”
-Mehmet Murat ildan
In the news this week was a story of a bald eagle in Maine that died of lead poisoning due to ingestion of lead shot. A hunter noticed the mature bald eagle in a tree and was able to walk unusually close to the wild bird. He reported the strange-acting eagle, which then lived its last hours in a nearby rehabilitation center. After x-raying the scavenger, they found that she had consumed just four lead pellets in her most recent meal. How was there lead shot in her food? There are a few possibilities. A hunter might have shot his partridge or turkey, but then was unable to find his prey and left it behind. Or perhaps with the growing pattern of people baiting coyotes in Maine, there were a variety of dead animals in the forest that had been shot in order to leave behind to attract coyotes–no attempt to remove the lead shot from those animals would initially seem necessary in that case. (For more information about human-coyote interactions, check out my post on the subject here).
This death of a bald eagle due to lead poisoning seems like a preventable occurrence. There are already several alternatives to lead shot on the market. I realize that the alternatives are not yet perfect substitutes of the qualities that lead have, but perhaps this is the one scenario where we do not want to literally kill two birds with one stone?