Eco-Tour Adventures Eagle Tracker
We are tracking a bald eagle - view an animated map that shows where this eagle has been travelling and enter to win a chance at naming this eagle.
EcoTour Adventures believes in conserving and preserving our natural resources and wildlife. Our company considers the power of awareness and education to be tantamount in achieving these goals. Keeping in line with these principles, EcoTour Adventures supports local research at Craighead Beringia South (CBS) with our Dollars for Conservation Program. CBS is currently conducting research on the effects of lead rifle ammunition on bald eagles. Our most recent contribution to CBS was used to purchase a satellite tracking device for a captured bald eagle. Our outfitted bald eagle is an adult female. She was one of the last summer bald eagles captured on the Snake River. She was released back into the wild in Jackson Hole, August 4th, 2010. However, she is nameless, so we invite you to go to our journal page and let us know what you think we should name her and why. Please feel free to share any additional thoughts or comments you might have. We also invite you to track our bald eagle by visiting http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?tag_id=66678&full=1 for daily updates.
The Struggle to Keep Our National Emblem Safe
On June 20th, 1782, the bald eagle was chosen as the emblem of the United States because of its longevity, great strength, and majestic appearance. The second largest North American bird of prey, it is quite regal in appearance. Its white head and tail contrast with its blackish-brown back, breast, and wings, which may span from 5.5 feet to an impressive 8 feet. This adult fish eagle weighs in around 10-14 pounds. Once estimated at a quarter to a half a million in number, the North American bald eagle population significantly declined due to the settlement of the US, and both the deliberate and inadvertent harm done to them.
Following World War II, with the introduction and indiscriminate use of DDT as a pesticide, the eagle population further dove to a mere 417 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states. Scientific research revealed that there was evidence of DDT in the fatty tissue of some of the dead birds, resulting in infertility. There was also a significant thinning of the egg shells, which often resulted in crushed eggs prior to hatching. As public awareness and concern increased, the federal government eventually banned DDT in the U.S. in 1972. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially listed the bald eagle as a national endangered species on July 4 1976. Scientists cite the absence of DDT in the environment as a significant factor in the repopulation of bald eagles over the last 30 years. Eventually, in 1999, the bald eagle was upgraded from “Endangered” to “Threatened” on the Endangered Species list. Finally, in June of 2007, the bald eagle was removed from the list completely. However, this is not to say that the struggle to protect the bald eagle is over; a newer, hidden threat has surfaced.
Lead ammunition and its gruesome effect on scavenger populations became a serious concern worldwide within the last two decades. In the 1990s, the California condor rebounded from near extinction only to encounter a new threat to their existence: lead poisoning. As hunting season starts, birds amass in the areas most used by hunters to feast on the offal (or gut) piles of big game, inadvertently ingesting toxic lead bullet fragments. Ravens, condors, golden eagles, bald eagles, and not to mention some of their non-feathered neighbors in the wild, all exhibit elevated blood lead levels during hunting season. Many birds, especially bald eagles, display signs of lead poisoning such as respiratory distress, vomiting and abnormal defecation, and disorientation. However, this should come as no surprise. Lead has long been known to be dangerous and potentially lethal to humans and especially children. Great measures have been taken to eliminate lead in paints, building materials, etc. In the game world, California banned the use of lead ammunition in the Condor foraging range. Accordingly, a positive effect was seen on the condor population. Unfortunately, other wildlife habitats have yet to be offered the same protections and we are now witnessing the undeniable harmful effect that lead poisoning is having on wildlife.
The overlap of Grand Teton National Park with the vast hunting grounds of the area, has provided local researchers at Craighead Beringia South (CBS) a perfect opportunity to examine the link between spent lead rifle ammunition and wildlife. Initially, CBS focused its research on the raven, another scavenger bird. After testing the blood lead levels of 600 captured ravens, researchers returned with supporting evidence for lead poisoning in ravens. In addition, the compilation of previous results has allowed researchers to accurately predict the annual blood lead levels of ravens based upon the number of elk and bison killed during the hunting season.
Last year, CBS expanded their research to include the effect of lead on bald and golden eagle populations originating in Jackson Hole as well as migratory populations. CBS has consistently documented alarming spikes in blood lead levels in both ravens and eagles during the hunting season. The 2009 hunting season marked the start of extended research on bald eagles. Captured eagles are outfitted with a satellite transmitter that is fastened to the birds like a backpack. The transmitter weighs very little and costs $2000 dollars; it transmits the birds location daily for approximately three years. The hope is to determine the number of local versus migratory birds in Jackson Hole. With the possibility that many eagles and other birds are attracted to the area for hunting season, the effects of lead ammunition poisoning could be far-reaching, both geographically and for the species. With a bald eagle population sick and in decline, the ability to successfully reproduce would be severely hindered. In addition, animals feeding on dead poisoned birds would perpetuate the circumstance via the food chain. The question no longer is if there is a problem, but what to do to eliminate it.
Banning the use of lead ammunition in the condor foraging area proved successful however, some gun rights activists fear this approach elsewhere, viewing it as a back door to other bans on guns. Therefore, awareness of the issue and the alternatives to lead ammunition are for the moment the best way to alleviate the current dilemma. Lead alternative ammunition has proven to be both effective, if not better for hunters, and safer for the scavenging populations. Locally, CBS spearheaded a non-lead ammunition campaign, promoting awareness and providing hunters with copper bullets, free of charge. Most hunters were pleased to have the information and the safer ammunition, which leads us to believe that with more outreach and awareness, the bald eagle and other wildlife will be protected from the terrible effects of lead ammunition.
EcoTour Adventures believes in conserving and preserving our natural resources and wildlife. Our company considers the power of awareness and education to be tantamount in achieving these goals. Please help us to inform others about the lead poisoning of our birds and wildlife.
Tell your friends to log on to:
http://jacksonholewildlifetours.com/journal/ , and help us name our eagle. Please feel free to share any additional thoughts or comments you might have. To follow our eagles flight please click here for daily tracking: http://www.wildlifetracking.org/index.shtml?tag_id=66678&full=1.
For additional information on the lead poisoning of birds, you can check out the following websites and articles:
American Bald Eagle Information: History of the Bald Eagle. 22 September 2010
Beauvais, Dr. Gary P. and Amber Travsky, comps. United States Dept. of the Interior. Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming State Office. Species Assessment For Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus Leucocephalus) In Wyoming. Cheyenne, Wyoming, November 2004. Print.
Craighead, Derek, and Bryan Bedrosian. “Blood Lead Levels of Common Ravens with Access to Big-Game Offal.” Journal of Wildlife Management 72(1) (2008): 240-245.
Craighead, Derek, and Bryan Bedrosian. “A Relationship Between Blood Lead Levels of Common Ravens and the Hunting Season in the Southern Yellowstone Ecosystem.” In R.T. Watson, M. Fuller, M. Pokras, and. W.G. Hunt. (Eds). Craighead, D. and B. Bedrosian. 2009. Ingestion of Lead From Spent Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans. The Peregrine Fund. Boise, ID, USA. 22 September 2010
Hatch, Cory. “Lead in Grizzly Blood During Hunt Season.” Jackson Hole News & Guide 12 November 2009. 22 September 2010
Hatch, Cory. “Migratory Eagles Studied for Lead Ingestion.” Jackson Hole News & Guide 18 November 2009. 22 September 2010 <www.jhnewsandguide.com/article.php?art_id=5309>.
Hatch, Cory. “To Catch A Fishing Bird.” Jackson Hole News & Guide 29 September 2010. 22 September 2010 <http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/article.php?art_id=6513>
Iowa Department of Natural Resources. 2010. Wildlife Diversity Program. 23 September 2010 <http://www.iowadnr.com/wildlife/files/eagles.html>
United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Migratory Birds: Bald and Golden Eagle. 4 September 2009. 10 October 2010 <http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/baldeagle.htm>.
United States Fish and Wildlife Service. National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines. May 2007.