WEST GLACIER – A bald eagle found dead earlier this year in Glacier National Park died from lead poisoning.
The bald eagle was found near Lower McDonald Creek in February and park biologists sent the carcass to the National Wildlife Health Center for further evaluation after an initial assessment did not show evidence of gunshot or other obvious signs of trauma.
Bald eagles are protected by the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which prohibits poisoning them, among a number of other activities.
Glacier National Park spokeswoman Lauren Alley notes that this is not the first eagle found in the West Glacier area that died from lead poisoning.
Park staff found a sub-adult golden eagle carcass in the same vicinity in April of 2012. A necropsy also determined that lead poisoning was the cause of death, according to Alley.
A similar case involving a golden eagle was recently discovered in Yellowstone National Park.
Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal that has been used by humans for many purposes for thousands of years. It has also been used in the manufacturing of lead fishing sinkers and hunting ammunition.
Although both lead fishing tackle and hunting are not permitted in Glacier National Park, Alley notes that eagles do not spend their entire lives within the park boundaries and can be exposed to lead outside of the park.
Anyone who sees sick or injured wildlife — or animals acting strangely — is asked to report them to a Glacier National Park employee and take photos or video from a safe distance if possible.