Bald eagles dying from lead in North Carolina hunters' bullets, experts say

CAMDEN COUNTY, N.C. -- Bald eagles, a federally protected species, are falling victim to lead poisoning in eastern North Carolina.

Lou Browning, a representative for Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation, said 70 to 80 percent of the eagles his group has treated had high levels of lead in their system.

"Birds die, and quite often they are exhibiting signs that are too bad," Browning said. "They've gone too far and they are euthanized."

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Browning said some of the symptoms of lead poisoning in eagles include lethargy, weakness, dehydration, vision problems and lack of motor control.

In 2020, Browning said nine eagles have been found with lead poisoning in northeastern North Carolina. He said hunters in the area are to blame for the heavy metal showing up inside the birds' bodies.

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"They're getting most of the lead from scavenging deer carcasses and other carcasses that have been shot and left in the woods," Browning said.

Browning said if hunters switched from lead bullets to copper, that would help reduce the threat.
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