An eagle is currently being treated in the bird of prey park Telfes, Tyrol (Western Austria). The animal ate the carcass of a dead animal that was shot with lead ammunition. The eagle is likely to survive the contamination.
Since the end of April, the nursing ward of the park has had a special patient: a Golden eagle had been contaminated with lead. The animal is called “Grandpa” as it is estimated to be 12 years old.
When it was found in Kappl, it suffered from paralysis symptoms. Vet Tanja Meister from Wattens noticed a high lead concentration in its blood.
The blood levels of the eagle have to be checked regularly. The lead contamination is treated with so-called chelating agents, which will hopefully extract the poison from the eagle’s body.
Its condition has improved: it can move its wings and the spasmodic moves have been reduced.
The eagle is believed to have swallowed the lead when it ate a carcass of a dead animal that was shot with lead ammunition.
“Birds of prey have a strong gastric acid, which dissolves the lead. Thus, the lead gets into the blood of the birds”, explained Matthias Premm of the park. He appeals to the industry to offer lead-free ammunition for hunters.
Hermann Sonntag of the alpine park Karwendel agrees with Mr Premm: “I advocate lead-free ammunition as we have the biggest Golden eagle population in the whole Alps region.
“If we cannot manage to ban lead from the landscape, we cannot protect the eagle. We have to guarantee a lead-free future for the eagles”, Mr Sonntag stated.
The Tyrolean hunter association has already drawn consequences and formed a working group in order to make hunters aware of lead-free ammunition.
The eagle “Grandpa” is likely to survive the contamination. Another eagle that was found contaminated with lead in Thaur in April, could not be rescued any more.