No one wants to see any single animal suffer. However, The News-Sentinel’s reporting, “Lead poisoning a threat to eagles, other area wildlife,” cites one eagle as a canary in a coal mine when it comes to eagle populations and says hunters are to blame.
The good news is that bald eagles in America are soaring in numbers. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are 10,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states.
Alaska is estimated to hold another 40,000-50,000. Eagle populations are so strong that eagles were removed from the endangered species list in 1995 and further removed from the threatened wildlife list in 2007. This recovery success involved hunters.
Hunters are literally investing in wildlife recovery programs. Each time they buy a firearm or ammunition, they support manufacturers who pay into the Pittman-Robertson excise tax, which has collected $11 billion since 1937. Those funds pay for wildlife habitat restoration and are responsible for helping in many wildlife species recoveries.
Soarin’ Hawk Raptor Rehabilitaton Center offered a grim story on sick eagles at their center. But they offered no comparison to total eagle population, and that is misleading. If you want to find sick eagles, look to rescue centers. That’s sad to say, but it is true.
Lawerence G. Keane is senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.