Bald Eagles in Rehabilitation at Friends of Texas Wildlife; A Call for Hunters to Make a Change

By: Rachel Norton
| Published 03/06/2020

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MAGNOLIA, TX – Friends of Texas Wildlife’s mission is two fold: to educate the public on how to safely coexist with wildlife, and to give animals their second chance at life. They intake 3,500 to 4,000 wild animals a year, and currently house two mature bald eagles in rehabilitation. One suffered a broken wing, and the other contracted lead poisoning.

“There seems to be a direct correlation between the end of deer hunting season and an increase of raptors coming in throughout the United States.”


Five bald eagles have been brought to the intake center this year alone. Three out of the five had lead poisoning, and the fourth died before testing could be conducted.

“There seems to be a direct correlation between the end of deer hunting season and an increase of raptors coming in throughout the United States,” said Lisa Wolling,
Executive Director of Friends of Texas Wildlife.

Data from soarraptors.org states that:

“Some packages of venison from deer shot with lead rifle bullets contained more than 100 ppm lead. Items with 100 ppm lead or above are considered hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency. Some venison from deer shot with lead slugs contained 0.7 ppm lead. This venison would not meet the standards for export to Europe or China.”

The softer nature of lead explains why shrapnel fragments are left in the body of animals shot with lead ammunition. When eagles ingest these carcasses, be it a wounded animal that escaped and later died, or a gut pile left behind, the lead is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and becomes toxic.

Eagles that test positive must go through chelation therapy to remove heavy metals from the body. “It’s a chemical that gets injected twice a day for five days and helps to bind heavy metals,” Wolling said. The animal then goes through three to five days of fluid therapy to flush the metal out, and the process is repeated until their blood tests negative for lead.

The bittersweet truth is that this is an easily preventable problem. Hunters can make the conscious decision to switch to alternatives, such as copper ammunition, for game hunting.

“A lot of hunters are conservationists who want to maintain wild lands,” Wolling said. “We’re hoping that if more people will at least look at the data and not say, ‘oh you’re anti-hunting you have an agenda,’ then we can resolve this issue.”

The eagles currently in care at Friends of Texas Wildlife are recovering nicely in the 100-foot-high flight enclosure. After three surgeries, the one with a broken wing is undergoing physical therapy. The eagle that had lead poisoning was cleared and is now regaining her strength before she can be released back into the wild. “She’s flying really well out there,” Wolling said.

Friends of Texas Wildlife takes in injured animals from a 13 counties radius. The organization is completely donation based, meaning donations and help with fundraising are appreciated beyond measure. If you’re interested in volunteering, attending one of their educational seminars, or you’d like to learn more, click here to visit their website.

For further information on lead poisoning in bald eagles, review these three articles:

Bald eagles across the United States are dying from lead poisoning – msn.com

HUNT AND FISH LEAD-FREE – soarraptors.org

Lead exposure from ammunition blamed for spate of ill bald eagles – pressherald.com

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