Six bald eagles are dead and six others are sick and undergoing treatment in Nanaimo at the VCA Island Animal Hospital.
The eagles were found in North Cowichan around the Herd Road area. The first two were brought in to the Raptor Rescue Society in Duncan on Wednesday, January 16, with the rest being discovered in the following days. As of the last reporting by the Hope Standard on January 25, no more victims appear to have been found.
The Raptors Centre is assisting the Rescue Society with the ordeal, which appears to be an unintentional case of bad grub.
“We suspect that a farm animal was euthanized and then not disposed of correctly,” Robyn Radcliffe, General Manager of The Raptors Centre, told the press. “So, if an animal is euthanized using any euthanizing drug, it’s super potent to animals feeding on a carcass. It’s likely that it wasn’t buried, which is what is supposed to happen.”
Ken Langelier, veterinarian and medical director at the VCA Island Animal Hospital, agrees.
“There’s not a lot of other toxins out there that can cause this same kind of condition where the birds actually look like they’re under a deep anaesthetic,” he told Global News. “Of the birds that were found, they were all low body temperature. People thought they were actually dying on the spot, that’s how sedate they were. They weren’t responsive; if you touched their eye, their third eyelid would slowly come across.”
Radcliffe notes that carcasses should be buried at least six feet deep, so peckish scavengers can’t get to the poisoned remains. “It’s not unusual for many birds to feed off the same carcass,” she told Cowichan Valley Citizens. “A dead deer could have 10 to 40 eagles feeding off it, in addition to ravens and vultures in the spring and summer.”
Further investigation by the BC Conservation Officer Service is still underway. No comment from them has been released.
For the six surviving eagles, things are improving. In the last update on their Facebook page, the Raptor Rescue Society shared that they are “pleased with the progress of the rescued eagles,” and on January 26 they began their release with the first poisoned eagle, a young female who had injured herself falling out of a tree after the poison started to affect her.
Up-island at the MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre, they have also received a troubling influx of raptor patients. As reported by the Cowichan Valley Citizen, out of 18 birds they have taken in since the beginning of the year, 11 of them have been eagles, coming from all over the island and surrounding region. While the situation is different from the one in Cowichan, pointing instead to lead poisoning and a variety of other causes, it certainly appears to be a tough time for the birds right now.
If you find an eagle who appears to be dead, sick, or distressed, you are advised to contact the Raptor Rescue Society at 778-936-0732.