A juvenile bald eagle discovered by a Gibraltar Mine employee in June was released back near the mine Wednesday after being treated for lead poisoning.
Sue Burton, a volunteer for Second Chance Wildlife Rescue Society in Quesnel, said the two-year-old eagle was found looking like a limp rag at the Cariboo Regional District landfill, which is near the mine site between Quesnel and Williams Lake.
Burton and local conservation officer, Adrian Haywood, went and picked up the eagle.
“I brought the eagle to Dr. Ross Hawkes at the Williams Lake Veterinary Hospital to stabilize him and then shipped him to the Orphaned Wildlife (OWL) Rehabilitation Society in Delta via Bandstra,” Burton said. “Bandstra are really wonderful, they really care.”
Rob Hope, raptor care manager at OWL, said when they received the eagle on June 23 and tested its blood, the lead level was 7.2 ug/dl.
That amount of lead is not high, he explained, but said any detectable lead in blood usually will cause impairment or death.
“The bird was lucky as often times the ones we receive with lead poison don’t fare as well,” Hope said.
Staff treated the eagle with medications for five days and then put him in a flight cage for exercise and made sure there was no damage from the lead.
Burton said when she and her sister Linda Burton released the eagle on Wednesday it went well.
“He soared over us like he was showing off and very happy,” she added.
Gibraltar Mines Ltd. vice-president of corporate affairs Brian Battison said the mine is a separate facility from the CRD landfill and there are no sources of lead at Gibraltar Mine.
In an information bulletin about lead poisoning, the OWL website said the major cause is from shot animals, gut piles, or bodies of vermin left behind that have particles of the soft metal left in them and it only takes a fragment the size of rice to poison or kill an eagle.