Eight bald eagles rescued after being poisoned in Nanaimo

8 bald eagles poisoned

The accidental poisoning of eight bald eagles should be a cautionary tale on the proper disposal of euthanized animals.

On Sunday, members of the Raptor Rescue Society, tasked with keeping seagulls and other pest-scavenger birds away from the Nanaimo regional landfill, watched as a bald eagle that was sitting on the ground toppled over in front of their eyes.

As this is not a usual behaviour, they went to investigate.

Ultimately they discovered a total of eight unresponsive bald eagles. They collected the birds and transported them to the Island Animal Hospital in Nanaimo.

They were assessed by Dr. Ken Langelier, medical director for the mid-island veterinary hospital and an expert on bald eagles.

He quickly determined that the birds were displaying symptoms of heavy sedation. He also noticed that all of their stomachs were very full.

That led him to conclude that they were likely suffering from barbiturate poisoning.

“It looks like the birds had found a dead pig and went to town on the carcass,” said Langelier. “They gorged on the remains and likely just dropped on the spot.”

He said that he and his staff emptied the contents out of the eagles’ stomachs and started the birds on intravenous fluids immediately to flush the poison out of their bodies.

By Monday evening, one bird had responded well enough to be considered for release in the next few days. Of the remaining seven, two are upright, but five remain in a state of semi-consciousness, with their prognosis guarded.

He said volunteers with the Raptor Rescue Society scoured the area by land and boat on Sunday to check for more victims, but found none.

“The birds were lucky that they were found in a short period of time,” he said. “In a case like this it is not the poison that kills them directly. They usually die from hypothermia because they can’t regulate their body temperature.”

He blames somebody’s laziness or ignorance for what happened.

The landfill has the facilities to properly dispose of euthanized farm animals, but staff rely on people to let them know if it is needed.

Instead of being buried, the carcass was likely just dumped on the surface, leading to the scavenging by the eagles.

“The birds were lucky to have been discovered so quickly. If it had happened today, on a holiday, all we would have found would have been dead birds the next day."

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