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Bald eagle with lead poisoning recovering at raptor center

The Athol woman and her family were enjoying Lake Pend Oreille over Labor Day weekend when they found a helpless male eagle on the bank. (CBS 2 File Photo)

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) — This wasn't how Janet Medley wanted to spot a bald eagle.

The Athol woman and her family were enjoying Lake Pend Oreille over Labor Day weekend when they found a helpless male eagle on the bank.

"He was wet and very sick and weak," Medley told the Coeur d'Alene Press. "It got our blood pumping because we wanted to do something."

The eagle was captured until the nonprofit Birds of Prey Northwest responded to care for it.

"We only had a cooler to contain him, but it worked," Medley said. "My son-in-law wrapped a towel around it because he wasn't happy."

The eagle was taken to the Birds of Prey rehabilitation center in the St. Maries area, where it continues to make great strides in recovery, said Janie Veltkamp, the nonprofit's founding director and a raptor biologist.

"It had nearly died," Veltkamp said, adding that the eagle is expected to be released.

It is the third bald eagle in the area this summer to have confirmed lead poisoning, Veltkamp said. All were found in the area of Farragut State Park. The other two eagles handled by the nonprofit — both females — didn't survive.

Veltkamp believes the eagles obtained lead poisoning after feasting on dead animals that had been shot with bullets with lead.

"Those bullets not only kill the intended animal, but they can kill both bald and golden eagles," she said.

Veltkamp encourages residents to switch to ammunition made from copper, nickel or bismuth.

"It only takes a minute amount of lead — a grain of rice — to kill," she said.

Veltkamp said Birds of Prey Northwest handles six to 10 raptors each year in North Idaho that have tested positive for lead poisoning. With three cases already this summer, 2018 is shaping up to be a higher-than-normal year because the incidents generally don't start until the big-game hunting season in the fall.

The cost to test a bird for lead poisoning is $100.

"Medication can cost hundreds of dollars on top of that," she said. "A hospital bill is the kind of cost that we're talking about."

Those who find injured or sick birds of prey are encouraged to call Birds of Prey at 208-582-0797 or email: janie@bopnw.org

The nonprofit has volunteers throughout the area who can respond.

Those who find the birds are encouraged to place them in a pet carrier or wire cage, if possible, until someone responds. They should be handled with some type of protection.

"They can be formidable and injure you if you're not careful," Veltkamp said.

Medley is thankful for the services of Birds of Prey Northwest.

"It was sad to see it that way, yet exciting to know it will live," she said.

Birds of Prey Northwest is a federally permitted agency celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and operates solely with volunteers and private funds.

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