A dozen poisoned bald eagles have been found in the Cowichan Valley since Wednesday, and rescuers are hoping to find any other sick birds, as well as the source of the poisoning.
“It’s pretty disturbing, finding so many sick and dead eagles,” said The Raptors general manager Robyn Radcliffe, who has been part of the search for the ailing animals.
Two eagles were brought in on Wednesday from the same location, although they were found at different times. Poisoning wasn’t suspected initially, but after the birds were taken to a veterinarian in Nanaimo, that was determined to be the cause.
Another call came in on Saturday from a conservation officer who had located two more birds — one dead and one sick — in a similar spot, so a search was undertaken that uncovered another eight eagles in various states of health.
Of the 12 poisoned eagles, six came in alive and are likely to survive, while the other six were already dead.
The birds have been found in the Herd Road area of North Cowichan, and an investigation is underway by the B.C. Conservation Officer Service. It seems likely, Radcliffe said, that the eagles were not intentionally poisoned, but probably fed off the carcass of a euthanized farm animal that wasn’t properly disposed of.
“If a bird eats an animal that has been euthanized, it will kill it pretty quick,” she said.
Proper disposal of euthanized animals is covered by law, but best practices are that they should be buried at least six feet deep so scavengers can’t eat the poisoned remains, Radcliffe said.
“We need to be really aware of what’s going out in the environment,” she commented. “Bald eagles are an indicator species. That’s why this shows up in them.”
It’s not unusual for many birds to feed off the same carcass, Radcliffe pointed out.
“A dead deer could have 10 to 40 eagles feeding off it, in addition to ravens and vultures in the spring and summer.”
Heading out on another search on Sunday morning, Radcliffe was optimistic that most of the victims had already been located. Anyone who finds a dead or sick eagle should contact the Raptor Rescue Society at 778-936-0732.