The animal experts could tell there was something off with the adult bald eagle as soon as it was brought to City Wildlife, a rehabilitation center in Northwest Washington.
The bird wasn’t flying and wasn’t using its legs properly.
And it was feisty.
All signs, experts said, pointed to lead poisoning, and a blood test confirmed that the eagle had high levels of lead, said Paula Goldberg, executive director of City Wildlife.
Experts had treated the raptor and hoped it would recover. But they had noted that its prognosis was “guarded.”
On Thursday morning, experts said the eagle had died sometime Wednesday night.
In an email, Goldberg said for wildlife, “there are no guarantees.
“In this case, we knew the bird had lead poisoning but it may have had other issues as well.”
The eagle was brought to City Wildlife Tuesday by an wildlife ranger with Maryland Natural Resources who found it in Nanjemoy, in Southern Maryland. Goldberg said the bird was found in woods, sitting on its haunches, about 100 feet from a road.
“There was clearly something wrong with it,” Goldberg said. Wildlife veterinarians at City Wildlife examined the bird. Goldberg said it is not uncommon for bald eagles to have elevated levels of lead.
Raptors are susceptible to lead poisoning because they often eat dead animals that have been hunted with ammunition that contains lead. Goldberg said, for example, that if a bald eagle eats a deer that has been shot with lead ammunition instead of copper, the lead stays in the deer’s body and then is digested when an eagle eats the deer.
Goldberg said her staff thinks that’s probably what happened to this bald eagle.
In California, politicians signed a ban on lead in hunting ammunition.
Kristy Jacobus, the City Wildlife clinical director and veterinarian, said the eagle that was found in Southern Maryland had lead levels measuring 24.5 micrograms per deciliter in its blood. An animal would show signs of being symptomatic at anything above 20, she said.
City Wildlife said this is the third bald eagle that the rescue operation has taken in since in the summer and the only one with lead poisoning.
Raptors with lead poisoning can suffer muscle and central nervous system weakness and damage, experts said. In 2012, a bald eagle died after it was found in Prince William County, and officials said its death was probably a result of chronic lead poisoning.