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There was a time when hunting, habitat loss and exposure to insecticide made it difficult for many bald eagles to survive. Then after years of increased protections, the population started growing again. Avian experts in Virginia say they still face a lingering threat from lead poisoing.
"The eagles and the vultures -- the scavengers -- are picking it up from deer that perhaps hunters are shooting," says Amanda Nicholson, with The Wildlife Center of Virginia. They often leave behind the parts they don't want and if it's out in the open, the scavengers come by and eat them," she says.
Nicholson says the center, based in Waynesboro, treated six bald eagles for lead-poisoning last year, and has already seen two more this month.
"If you are a hunter, use a non-lead ammunition for hunting purposes," she says.
Nicholson also suggests hunters bury any remains they leave behind.
It's a precaution of which avid bird-watcher Jason Berry says he's hopeful hunters will take heed. He's seen 218 different kinds of birds in the District last year, and while all the birds he saw were breathtaking, bald eagles are something special.
"It's really just an amazing experience to have something that big flying over you," he says.