Monday, November 07, 2011

The Mother of Hubris

The story on the CBC is pretty convincing; the majestic Golden Eagle, which has long graced our skies (the only territory it is not endangered in), has come under threat. The birds, which are listed as in a 'sensitive' condition by Alberta Fish and Wildlife (a word which here means "please stop using them for tennis"), have been dealing with a severe lead poisoning issue. The Wildlife Rehabilitation society of Edmonton has been forced to euthanize five in the last year from severe levels of lead in the birds' blood.

The society believes the lead comes from spent cartridges left by hunters during the hunting season. A quick search on google shows this is a common belief throughout the pacific northwest with numerous studies documenting the issue. A phone call to my source confirmed the use of soft lead for hunting species such as grouse or other small game, but not big game such as deer or bear. And although it is rare for a wounded animal to get away and provide a movable lead feast for other carnivorous animals, it is common that lead pellets miss their target and are left to move swiftly into the food chain.

Although I had begun this story with the plan to discredit the society's theory and supplant in the theory that it was the birds' habitats atop lead-lined telephone wires that were causing the poisoning, the overwhelming evidence, such as the California ban on lead shot that heralded in a dramatic drop in wildlife lead poisoning, points to the fact that it is a big problem.

So why don't more hunters choose non-lead shot? The fact is that it is just not available for purchase in small enough sizes for use. Whether this is due to non-demand or some sinister plot to make Golden Eagles endangered, the fact is this is a perfect point for the government to step in and get its 'regulating on'. So although it is pretty embarrassing to gear myself up for a story, only to be completely stymied, it is better to get the issue out. Maybe the money we save from disbanding the long-gun registry could be used for providing non-lead alternatives.

The title refers to the fact that Athenian Aeschylus, "the father of Greek tragedy" was killed when an eagle dropped a turtle on his bald head, thinking it was a rock. 

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