SPWC vet tech sees rising trend of incidents of lead poisoning among wildlife

An eagle admitted to Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre is attempting to recover from a bout of lead poisoning. Submitted photo.

Adam Prudhomme

A pair of bald eagles and a swan were all recently admitted to Napanee’s Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre with the same ailment: complications due to lead poisoning.

SPWC assistant director and registered vet tech Leah Birmingham says the recent cases of lead poisoning are indicative of a concerning trend among wildlife patients.

“We’re seeing more and more of it and we’re noticing other rehab centres are seeing a lot of it as well,” said Birmingham. “It typically tends to be from fishing tackle. Any of the cheaper fishing tackle is usually lead based and often with birds that eat fish, they eat the fish and then as it digests, they’re left with sinker that the fish had in it.”

As for the swan, Birmingham says foraging birds such as loons are known to ingest lead-based fishing sinkers that become snagged at the bottom of a lake or river.

The eagles currently in the care of SPWC have a long road ahead of them, but there is hope for a full recovery. Staff and volunteers at the centre are able to test the amount of lead in an animal’s blood stream. Numbers on the eagles were low enough that Birmingham says there’s a good chance they will survive. There’s still a lot of treatment that needs to be done, including determining whether they need to remove any lead-based substance from the bird’s digestive tract. For now they are treating the birds through IV.

“These drugs have to be specifically compounded at a compounding pharmacy,” said Birmingham. “It is not a cheap treatment at all.”

As always, the not-for-profit rehab centre is counting on the community to help them continue the work they do.

Financial donations are always welcome to the centre by visiting www.SandyPinesWildlife.org. The centre could also use any donations of fish or small road kill-squirrels or rabbits-to help feed the birds while they recover.

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