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Hunters are killing bald eagles – but they’re not shooting them

America’s national birds are dying from lead poisoning after eating animals shot with lead bullets.
Credit: AP
(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

CAPE FEAR, N.C. — They’re majestic, massive and making a major comeback after flying off the endangered species list – but bald eagles are facing a deadly new threat.

It’s hidden deep inside their food.

CNN reports the birds of prey are dying from lead poisoning at an alarming rate.

The Cape Fear Raptor Center in North Carolina told the cable news network it has treated seven bald eagles in just the past month, and sadly, a lot of the birds are too sick to be saved.

Eighty percent of the eagles it has euthanized since November were all suffering from the same insidious symptoms – they’re dehydrated, weak and lethargic. Some are losing their sight, and neurological problems are literally stealing the birds’ ability to control their bodies.

Credit: AP
In this March 31, 2015 file photo, a bald eagle takes flight in Newcastle, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Where is the lead coming from?

Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation says hunters are to blame, but the rescue group does not believe they’re doing it on purpose.

"[The bald eagles are] getting most of the lead from scavenging deer carcasses and other carcasses that have been shot and left in the woods, wildlife rehabilitator Lou Browning told ABC7.

"The bullets quite often fragment, and when they do, these tiny particles of lead scatter through a certain distance of the meat"

What can be done?

According to ABC7, Browning suggests, for hunters, the solution may be as simple as swapping out ammunition.

"The most direct thing would be to switch to copper bullets instead of lead," Browning said.

But some hunters argue while copper bullets are safer for birds that eat discarded game, they’re less humane than traditional lead rounds.

According to Terminal Ballistics Research, copper bullets don’t do as much damage on impact, which means game animals are more likely to suffer.

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