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

Moms of those killed by illicit opioids take to B.C. Legislature in call for action

Moms Stop the Harm, a nationwide network of families who have lost loved ones to overdoses rally

Gwaii Haanas Report: Talking About Everything plan

By Victoria Leslie A dinner of crab legs and clam fritters, halibut… Continue reading

115 new wildfires burning across B.C. due to 19,000 lightning strikes

More fires expected to start today, says BC Wildfire Service officials

CHN seeks injunction against logging at Collison Point

Weeks after ordering an end to a blockade there, the B.C. Supreme… Continue reading

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

Pigs crash yoga class in B.C.

First it was goats, now it’s pigs — you can get downward dog with the whole farm in Aldergrove

Judge dismisses DNA request in Cranbrook triple murder case

Dean Christopher Roberts must appeal directly to the federal Minister of Justice, reads ruling.

Yes, we could use a soft drink tax

NDP rejects useful tax advice because it’s not popular

Canada sweeps China in Pacific Rim Basketball Classic

National men’s team beats China twice over weekend in Vancouver and Victoria

Rainbow crosswalk in B.C. defaced 10 days after installation

Surrey’s first rainbow crosswalk has been defaced sometime over the weekend

Closing arguments expected in trial for twice convicted Canadian killer

Crown, defence expected to give closing arguments in Millard murder trial

Canadians undertake the world’s most dangerous peacekeeping mission

A dozen Canadian peacekeepers arrive in Mali as yearlong mission begins

U.S. justices won’t hear case of anti-gay marriage florist

The case is regarding whether business owners can refuse on religious grounds to comply with anti-discrimination laws

Most Read