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WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — A Wilmington veterinarian is trying to figure out what sickened two bald eagles she recently found in southeastern North Carolina.
Cape Fear Raptor Center Director Joni Gnyp said that she first thought the birds were suffering from lead poisoning, caused when the ammunition used by hunters leaks lead into what remains of animals that birds of prey eat.
But the first bald eagle, named Aang, died suddenly after treatment, she said.
"We had flown him that Friday, and he caught fish. We checked on him Saturday. He was fine, we fed him and went to an event, and when I came back Sunday morning, he was dead," Gnyp told the StarNews of Wilmington (http://bit.ly/1AR2IbC ).
Then the second ill eagle, named Yangchen, tested negative for lead poisoning.
"There are a host of metals that we don't routinely screen for — mercury, zinc, arsenic, selenium," Gnyp said. "So we treated her for heavy metals, because that's what she looked like. And the fact that she responded makes me wonder if there's a common thread here."
Gnyp has sent tissue samples from the bird that survived to figure out what is wrong. Her theory is the eagles were exposed to toxins somewhere else, like mercury-laden fish or contaminated coal ash water.
The second eagle appears to be recovering. The bird flies three mornings a week for 45 minutes with a tether attached to the talons to create drag and improve fitness. If the eagle recovers enough to be released to the wild, Gnyp will put a backpack with GPS on the bird to track its movements so scientists will know where the animal has been if the eagle gets sick again.
Information from: The StarNews, http://starnewsonline.com
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