An eagle nicknamed ‘Olive Oyl’ flies free at the Port Clements Community Park on Friday, May 25, in front of local students and well-wishers. Found in Port Clements this winter, the eagle was unable to fly after its feathers got coated in what appeared to be cooking oil. Local wildlife rescue volunteer Leila Riddall sent the bird on a Pacific Coastal flight to the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in Delta. ‘Sandy,’ an eagle found in Sandspit with lead poisoning around the same time, was also released in good condition Friday. (Bree-Ann Christel Collinson/Submitted)

Eagles face a few human hazards on Haida Gwaii

Two up, one down.

That was Friday’s eagle count for Leila Riddall, a long-time wildlife rescue volunteer in Masset.

On the same day that two bald eagles were flown back to Masset after surviving lead poisoning and getting covered in food oil, a third was found electrocuted below a power line in Masset with a fish head by its side.

Of all the human hazards eagles face on Haida Gwaii, perhaps the easiest to fix is the habit of leaving fish and deer scraps where the birds can feed on them.

“People think they’re doing them a favour, but they’re not pets,” says Kelly Aitken, a local fishery officer with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Aitken said it’s actually illegal to leave fish scraps on boat ramps or anywhere else in the intertidal zone.

Eagles often hurt each other fighting over the scraps, and it’s not uncommon for them to hit a nearby house or power line in the frenzy.

“No one who feeds animals is being mean,” Aitken said. “They just need to understand that it’s leading to something not so good.”

Aitken noted that such eagle deaths actually appear to have declined in Masset, as local fishing lodges have improved their practices.

Using the cleaning station on the Masset Harbour dock is an easy solution, she added, since the scraps fall directly into the deep water below the dock.

A trickier hazard is the use of lead hunting ammunition on Haida Gwaii and Canada at large.

A recent study commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada found that across the country, hunters send about 40 to 80 tonnes of lead into the environment each year. Not only is there evidence that eagles and ravens die after ingesting lead from the guts of hunted deer, gun-range shooters show elevated levels of lead in their blood, as do their families.

In contrast to hunting, the study found about 5,000 tonnes of lead is discharged on shooting ranges in Canada every year, and less than 200 tonnes is recovered. Lead exposure and poisoning has been found in wildlife that forage in the highly contaminated areas around shooting ranges.

Because of the health and environmental risk, Denmark, Sweden, and The Netherlands have completely banned lead ammunition. In Canada, only lead birdshot is illegal.

While lead-free steel, tungsten, bismuth, and copper bullets can also be used for hunting, the study found they have very minimal use in Canada, and recreational hunters are unlikely to switch to lead-free bullets voluntarily. Lead-free ammunition for deer hunting is more costly, and is not widely available in stores.


‘Olive Oyl’ perches in Port Clements for a minute after a long airplane flight up from the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in Delta. Unfortunately, while the bird survived a soaking in food oil, it got a rude welcome back on-island — the eagle was immediately attacked by a murder of crows. (Bree-Ann Christel Collinson/Submitted)

Just Posted

More sailings coming to Haida Gwaii

The B.C. government says Haida Gwaii’s two BC Ferries routes are among… Continue reading

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Mold shuts down construction at QC supportive housing project

Construction of the new 19-unit modular housing complex in Queen Charlotte has… Continue reading

Spring fishery closures mulled for south coast

Fewer fish are returning to rivers and more conservation needed, say feds

Broken axle caused New Hazelton train derailment: TSB

It could happen again without a different way to inspect trains

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

Cryptocurrency exchange CEO who suddenly died leaves Kelowna house in will

Gerald Cotten, holding the keys to money tied up in his virtual currency exchange, died in December.

Regulator’s report, coming today, unlikely to settle Trans Mountain pipeline battle

The Trans Mountain pipeline will remain a controversial topic both in the political ring and out

Australian woman killed in avalanche at Whistler

The woman and her partner were reportedly rescued by ski patrol, but she did not survive

Most Read