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Injured Bald Eagle Could Have Lead Poisoning


It’s our national bird, the sacred symbol of the United States of America — and now one of them is in the hands of Central Oregon veterinarians, clinging to life.

Discovered by three La Pine women mushroom-hunting near Crane Prairie Reservoir, the rare raptor was motionless and badly injured with head trauma, spinal cord trauma and a fractured wing.

It’s believed the bird was hit by a car, but only because it was weak, potentially suffering from a deadly toxin.

“We seem to see an increase in the number of eagles with lead poisoning over the past couple years,” said clinic veterinarian Dr. Jeff Cooney. “Jeannette and I are also independently doing some research on our own by radiographing animals that have been shot with lead high-velocity bullets.”

Cooney says it’s becoming a dangerous game.

Some hunters shoot animals and leave the carcasses, which become the eagles’ tasty dinner.

“The raptors are circling, and they go down and eat those carcases, and they’re full of lead,” said wildlife rehabilitator Jeannette Bonomo. “We hope to educate some of these hunters: Clean up what you’re killing and don’t just leave it out there, because you’re harming other wildlife.”

There are no moves to ban lead bullets here in Oregon.

But despite the ban in certain areas of other states, 70 percent of these endangered birds continue to have some levels of lead poisoning.

Local vets are working on a project to highlight the dangers of lead poisoning, but for now, their goal is to make sure this majestic bird sets flight once again.

“You want it to make it, you want it to survive and get released and see it to soar another day,” Bonomo said Wednesday.

Bonomo also said the bald eagle, which is being nursed back to health at the Bend Veterinary Clinic, actually stood up Wednesday for a about 10 minutes. Then he laid back down and is still very weak, but slowly recovering.

If for some reason, the eagle can’t fully recover wing usage or stand on it’s own, Bonomo said they may have to euthanize it. The body would go to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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