The North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre recently took in three adult bald eagles within an 18-hour period.
The eagles were picked up from Qualicum Bay, Qualicum Beach and Bowser on Feb. 15. After each one was X-rayed, they presented different injuries and ailments. Unfortunately, said Derek Downes, centre animal care technician, two of the eagles did not survive.
The first eagle was a victim of lead/metal poisoning. Downes believes the second was electrocuted and fell to the ground, where it was attacked by a dog.
The third eagle suffered a fractured leg and is the only one that survived. It is now recovering at the centre, which currently has more than a dozen eagles under its care.
“It illustrates how dire the situation is for the eagles,” said Downes. “When those three eagles came in, all of them were in rough shape. It’s really tough out there. It’s not just one injury or one type of thing that can happen to them. There’s all sorts of issues.”
Downes said the lead poisoning often happens when food sources are hard to come by and also due to stiff competition.
“Typically how it happens, is water fowl or ducks that have foraged down in the bottom of streams and creeks, they eat the lead and the toxicity affects them very, very quickly,” said Downes. “They become very easy targets, especially for eagles who are struggling and will eat anything. They ingest the lead but it will take longer to affect them. An eagle’s stomach acid is so strong it just starts to break it down and the toxicity seeps in. It can affect them in a whole host of different ways that include organ failure. Lead is a bad one but there are also other heavy metals and even plastics.”
Downes said they will soon be releasing some of the eagles in their care back into the wild.
”We will have a bunch of eagles leaving us soon,” said Downes. “So it’s not all sad. We’ve had a lot of success with them. When the herring run happens, that will be a good time to release them. We want to make sure that they have a high probability of succeeding. We want them to have a solid food source.”
Since 1985, the centre (1240 Leffler Rd., in Errington) has rescued 23,450 birds and animals on Vancouver Island. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information visit https://www.niwra.org.