While Some Fight to Keep Lead Ammunition, Some Caution the Risk to Eagles

KTUL-Tyler Butler - May 15, 2022 1:52 pm

A lot of patriotic words and images come to mind when you see a bald eagle.

Sadly, these days, the folks at Wild Heart Ranch have a different phrase in mind when they see these majestic raptors. Needless tragedy.

“The feeling of standing there at the table and you’ve got a bald eagle on the table, suffering from lead poisoning… I have to wait for someone to tell me to put the bird down. We have proper channels to go through and when we euthanize a bald eagle, it’s very serious. The only thing I am allowed to do is try to save the life of an animal that’s doomed,” said Annette King, founder of Wild Heart Ranch.

King has experienced it more than once. It’s not that people are shooting our nation’s symbol, it’s what the eagles are eating.

“When we field dress wildlife, we leave behind gut piles laced with lead ammo, feral hogs, they don’t always collect the carcass. Lead ingested into the body is dangerous to all animals, but particularly eagles are the most prone to lead poisoning and death.”

It’s tough to watch, but the rescue posted a video of a bald eagle suffering from lead poisoning in March. Struggling to breathe, the raptor was later euthanized.

“People like me stand there at a table, trying to save the life of our national symbol with absolutely no voice in the fight,” King said.

The fight is in Washington, over whether lead ammunition should be banned on public land.

Oklahoma Senator James Lankford is leading the charge, along with several other co-signers to protect the use of lead ammunition. In a letter to the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Lankford says non-lead bullets are more expensive and “phasing out lead ammo and tackle on wildlife refuges would disproportionately affect lower-income households.”

King says it’s a price we need to pay.

“When the demand is not there for lead ammo, the supply is going to boost on the alternatives. Prices are going to become affordable. Long term, it’s not going to affect anybody. Nothing will change, give it three years, nothing will change except these eagles will not be dying of lead poisoning,” she said.

King says she is not against hunting, quite the opposite. Her issue is with the ammunition, not the dollars hunting brings in for wildlife preservation and rehab across the country.


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