Bald eagles in Northern Utah are being killed by lead poisoning. There have been three confirmed cases by The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah.
Wildlife volunteers say that hunters can fix the problem by changing their ammunition type, but there are gun owners who disagree.
Buz Marthaler said, “It’s tough to see our nation’s official bird suffer. We feel helpless. We don’t have a lot of answers.”
According to KSL, many x-rays and blood tests were taken by Marthaler and other volunteers, which assured them that the bald eagles that were treated at their facility died because of lead poisoning.
“For 35 years, we’ve decided it needs to be removed from our paint, our gasoline, things like that to get it out of a human environment. We have not yet decided it’s necessary to take it out of our natural environment,” Marthaler said.
Marthaler is asking hunters to switch to things like brass or copper rounds to make hunting more “green.” He is also encouraging voters to write their congressional representatives to ask that lead-free rounds be required by law.
“We’re poisoning those animals, and it’s a slow, painful death,” Marthaler said.
There are many hunters that disagree. Charles Hardy, public policy director for Gun Owners of Utah says lead is heavy and soft and other alternatives are more expensive and could raise the cost of ammunition as much as 500 percent.
Hardy told KSL that lead in its solid form does not spread and contaminate very easily, and that most hunters make efforts to ensure that rounds are not left in the wild. Hardy also believes tests on eagles that found signs of lead poisoning are not conclusive. “I have yet to see an independent scientific study that says we have a problem with lead building up and killing animals,” he said. “I think what we have are some concerns that are probably well-intentioned, but overstated.”