NORTHERN VANCOUVER ISLAND, B.C. – Eagles are getting sick and are dying on the Island.

Some of the eagles are dying due to infections from trichomoniasis, a parasite commonly found in urban pigeons. Raptors get infected when they eat a pigeon carrying the parasite.

Eagles infected with trichomoniasis end up with respiratory problems. The parasite causes severe sore throat and swelling. Some die due to starvation and some die of suffocation.

But some eagles die of lead poisoning.

Brenna Lerch, a wildlife rehabilitator at MARS Wildlife Rescue said the centre received a sick eagle from Hornby Island that tested positive for lead in its system.

“The lead can come from a couple different places. One is from when hunters are hunting and they shoot the animal and then the bullet fragments into the body of the animal they’ve killed and then here comes along a raptor and eats some of the meat and they might ingest some of the fragments,” Lerch said.

She also said that rat poison left out in the open could be a contributing factor to the eagles getting sick and dying.

Lerch added that they only have one confirmed case of lead poisoning in an eagle so far. The eagles the centre receive come from different places, which Lerch said makes it difficult to pinpoint the causes of their illness or death at times.

“It could be the ones that we weren’t able to test for lead that did end up passing away, we’re going to get them tested for (rat) poison, so we’re going to find out.”

“These birds have been coming from all over the place – they’re not all just from one place. So that makes it more of a mystery.”