WCV Eagle Data Produces National News Coverage

A recent cluster of national news stories about the extent of toxic lead in the Bald Eagle population has one of its sources in pioneering work done at the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

A study published February 17th in the journal Science documented the levels of lead present in the bodies of over 1200 Bald Eagles nationwide. The data on 300 of those eagles came from the extensive patient database at the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

The publication immediately made national news. Media across the country picked up the startling finding that approximately 50% of the Bald Eagle population of the United States has some degree of lead poisoning.

Lead is a neurotoxin that is poisonous to all life. Eagles and other scavengers and birds of prey can ingest lead in substantial amounts from the bullet fragments left in the remains of hunted deer and other animals.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia has been tracking the presence of lead in Bald Eagles since 2010. It’s WILD-ONe database contains information on 365 Bald Eagle patients who have been tested for lead since 2010.

“We are very proud to have created one of the first comprehensive databases of wildlife patient health records,” said WCV President Ed Clark. “We now have more than a decade of data on which studies like this can be built.”

Two of the co-authors of the study are former WCV Directors of Veterinary Services: Dr. David McRuer and Dr. Ernesto Dominguez-Villegas. The study is the first to determine that lead exposure has effects not just on the health of individual eagles, but on eagle populations as a whole.

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