Bald eagle death highlights dangers of lead in environment

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The injured bald eagle from Bettendorf grabbed people's attention and quickly had hundreds hoping for a fast recovery, but that recovery didn't come.

SEE ALSO: Eagle rescued in Bettendorf, IA dies of lead poisoning

"It had three strikes against it. It was starving, it was dehydrated and it had lead. It was really a terrible combination of things," Emily Santiago with Scott County Conservation said.

Santiago worked with the eagle before it went to Iowa City last week. She was hopeful that they would be able to flush the lead out of its system, but it was too late.

This is not the first eagle sent to Raptor Advocacy, Rehabilitation and Education Center. In the past three months, 14 others have been sent in from all over the state for medical attention.

"All of them had some amount of lead in their bodies. I think that one of them is still alive," Santiago said.

That highlights a big issue that conservationists are trying to battle. Lead is being ingested by the eagles through things like fishing lures and bullets. Those items have non-lead options, which is something Santiago would like to see more people use.

"These alternatives may not be as cheap as lead, but increase in demand lowers the price," Santiago said.

It's not just the eagles that are suffering from the poisoning from lead. Any animal that eats something with lead in it will pass that poison on to the next animal up in the food chain.

"Just because bald eagles are protected, doesn`t mean they`re safe. There are many things that humans can do to help the environment, one of which is being aware of how your lifestyle plays a role in the health of the ecosystem," Santiago said.

The loss of this bald eagle is heartbreaking, but they're taking this as an opportunity to show what can be done to keep this from happening again.

Lead poisoning in bald eagles tends to spike during hunting seasons. Santiago says one or two small pellets with lead can be deadly to the bird, but it's still unclear where the Bettendorf eagle was poisoned or how long the lead was in its system.

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