The pioneering golden eagle took to the skies above Yellowstone national park in the fall and flew north, to areas where humans were hunting game. A few months later it returned to the park and was found on the ground, dead.
Scientists performing a necropsy on the creature, the first to be tagged with a radio transmitter in the park, made an unhappy discovery: it had been poisoned by lead. They are now raising concerns over whether US national parks are as safe for wildlife as they seem.
“This bird had a substantial amount of lead put into its system in a very quick way,” said Todd Katzner, a research wildlife biologist with the US Geological Survey. “You don’t get that from breathing lead. It ingested something.”
The bird probably ingested lead ammunition fragments from big game carcasses. Lead bullets have been a source of controversy in the US hunting community for years. Conservationists argue for the use of alternatives such as copper bullets. Shooting sports advocates say non-lead ammunition is costly and that lead has been used for hundreds of years.