Environment

What killed this bald eagle found sick in Atascadero?

Volunteers with Pacific Wildlife Care picked up a sick bald eagle on Monday, August 14, 2017, in Atascadero. It died shortly after.
Volunteers with Pacific Wildlife Care picked up a sick bald eagle on Monday, August 14, 2017, in Atascadero. It died shortly after.

A sick bald eagle picked up by Pacific Wildlife Care died 30 minutes after arriving at the Morro Bay center, and now its death is something of a mystery.

The eagle was found in Atascadero on Monday morning, and although poisoning is expected, the center has not yet been able to confirm that.

“We don’t know for certain that the bird was poisoned,” said Vann Masvidal, the director of Pacific Wildlife Care. “We did a test for lead poisoning. Bald eagles often do get poisoned by lead if they’re scavenging. But it came back negative for lead.”

The other likely culprit in the eagle’s death is eating poisoned rodents, but that requires more advanced testing than Pacific Wildlife Care can do locally, Masvidal said.

So the center will mail the bird carcass to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Infectious Disease Lab for analysis, and likely won’t know what killed the eagle for a few weeks.

Pacific Wildlife Care sees about two to three bald eagles every year, Masvidal said.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, bald eagles can be found in 41 of California’s 58 counties, with about half of the wintering bald eagles located in the Klamath Basin along the California-Oregon border. There are no current population estimates for bald eagles in California, but numbers are on the rise, according to the department.

Bald eagles were officially listed as endangered in 1967. They were taken off the federal endangered species list in 2007, according to Fish and Wildlife, but the bird remains endangered in California. The most significant threat to bald eagles in the 20th century was DDT pesticide, Fish and Wildlife said.

Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_GabbyF

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