Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hunters: Eagles Need Your Deer and Turkey Hearts

Transcript of today's For the Birds

Every year in October and November, the number of eagles taken to rehab centers in Minnesota and Wisconsin rises dramatically. A great many of these birds have lead poisoning, from eating carcasses of deer that got away after being shot, or eating gut piles, when the hunter used lead bullets or buckshot. Last week Marge Gibson at the Raptor Education Group, Inc, or REGI, took in several lead poisoned eagles. Lead is highly toxic to birds and mammals, and remains in the bloodstream until it binds with substances called chelates. Chelation therapy, in which the chelate is infused into the blood to bind to the toxic metal, is the only way to, quite literally, get the lead out. After the lead binds to the chelate, the kidneys can filter it out of the bloodstream.

But chelates themselves are toxic, and it’s hard for the kidneys to filter out too much at a time, so chelates must be given to the eagles in reasonably small, regular doses until the birds’ systems have been cleared of toxins. It’s important for these vulnerable birds to get excellent nutrition as they recover. This year, Marge Gibson has sent out a request for any hunters who could to bring the hearts of deer, bear, turkeys, ducks, or other game to help feed her eagles. REGI is located in Antigo, Wisconsin, so if hunters who live in or spend time near there could freeze the hearts and get them to Marge, it would be enormously helpful. My friend Sandy Gillum, a loon biologist in Eagle River, can also take them to Antigo. If you’re a hunter who can donate the heart from your game, please email me for more information.

In other hunting news, the winner of this year’s Duck Stamp art contest was just announced. Joseph Hautman’s exquisite male Wood Duck, painted in vivid acrylics. This was the fourth time Hautman has won this prestigious award, and the tenth time that he or one of his two brothers won. The art work will be used on the 2012 Duck Stamp, which will be on sale starting in July. Hautman won’t receive any money or other award. Fully 98 cents of every dollar people spend on duck stamps goes directly toward land conservation in the National Wildlife Refuge system, and this is possible because the artists who win the contest donate use of the image for the stamp—their only compensation is a pane of stamps carrying their design. But they may sell prints of their designs, which are sought after by hunters, conservationists, and art collectors.

All waterfowl hunters are required to have that year’s Duck Stamp, which they must sign in ink. Birders should also purchase Duck Stamps—the National Wildlife Refuge System is essential for a great many non-game birds, providing essential breeding habitat for Black-capped Vireos, wintering habitat for Whooping Cranes, and migration stopover habitat for virtually all Neotropical migrants, including warblers, tanagers, orioles, and hummingbirds. This year, your $15 will not just be your contribution to critical habitat and great birding sites—it will also get you a beautiful little portrait of a Wood Duck. The 2012 stamp won’t be out in time for Christmas, but the 2011 Stamp, with Hautman’s brother James’s painting of a regal pair of White-fronted Geese, would make a great stocking stuffer for conservationists.