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Lead poisoning found in Kiski Township bald eagle

Mary Ann Thomas
| Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, 3:36 p.m.
This bald eagle, rescued from along the Roaring Run Trail in Kiski Township, was found to have lead poisoning. The bird is at least 30 years old.
Courtesy of the Humane Animal Rescue Wildlife Center
This bald eagle, rescued from along the Roaring Run Trail in Kiski Township, was found to have lead poisoning. The bird is at least 30 years old.

After a bald eagle let people get unusually close to it on the Roaring Run trail in Kiski Township, a game warden and trail officials on Sunday rescued the bird, which was found to have lead poisoning.

The bird was taken to the Humane Animal Rescue Wildlife Center in Verona, where veterinarians suspected lead poisoning after a full-body x-ray, according to Alexis Fitzgerald, manager of humane and wildlife education at the center.

The bird then was transferred to Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center in Saegertown, where blood tests confirmed lead poisoning.

The eagle's condition was "guarded" Monday afternoon.

Because eagles are scavengers, the bird could have picked up lead from a fishing sinker or lead ammunition in a dead animal, according to Fitzgerald.

This is one resilient bald eagle, so far.

After examining the bird's band, the Pennsylvania Game Commission determined the bird was 30 years old and was first banded near Harrisburg, according to Don Berry, a deputy game protector.

Amazingly, the bird recovered after being hit by a car in 2012 in West Sunbury, Butler County, and was rehabilitated and set free back into the wild later that year, Berry said.

The road to recovery

Tom Iseman of Allegheny Township knew something was wrong when a bald eagle — perched on a branch just 15 feet off the ground and 20 yards from the trail — stayed in the same place for hours Saturday.

However, this proved to be a boon for trail walkers who stopped to view and take photos of the large bird, known to frequent the Kiski River along the Roaring Run trail.

Iseman called the Pennsylvania Game Commission but never connected with an officer.

He returned to the trail in the evening and, sure enough, the eagle still was perched in the same tree.

On Sunday, Iseman, who is vice president of the Roaring Run Watershed Association, looked for the bird again, hoping that it had flown away.

When he couldn't find the bird, he wanted take a closer look at the underbrush along the trail to make sure the eagle hadn't died.

"I waded through the knotweed and saw it standing on the ground," said Iseman.

"I got within 10 feet of it, and it didn't move," he said.

Iseman backed away to not stress the bird and called wildlife authorities again, this time reaching Berry.

The two, along with Ken Kaminski, Roaring Run Watershed Association president, slowly surrounded the bird and tried to throw a blanket over it.

But the eagle escaped and made a break for the river.

"Don Berry dove over the riverbank and, wearing welding gloves, was able to catch the bird before it went into the water," Iseman said.

The bird, which was banded, also had something wrong with one of its eyes, said Iseman.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691, mthomas@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib

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