CAMDEN COUNTY, N.C. -- Bald eagles are federally protected, but experts say they're dying from bullets in North Carolina, WTKR reports.
Not because they're being shot but because the lead found in hunters' bullets is making its way into their systems.
A male eagle found in Camden County, North Carolina was weak and dehydrated and had a much more frightening symptom: lead poisoning.
"Birds die and quite often they are exhibiting signs that are too bad,” said Lou Browning with Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation. They've gone too far and they are euthanized."
Browning says 70 to 80% of the eagles that are treated have high levels of lead in their system, and the effects are devastating.
This year alone, Browning says there have been 9 cases of eagles found with lead poisoning in northeastern North Carolina.
"If they start showing other signs that there has been so much damage to their system then ethically you need to put them out of their misery,” Browning said.
He says hunters are to blame for this heavy metal showing up their system.
"They're getting most of the lead from scavenging deer carcasses and other carcasses that have been shot and left in the woods,” Browning said.
Browning is now calling on hunters to make a small change that could have a big impact.
"The most direct thing would be to switch -- if you're deer hunting for instance - switch to copper bullets instead of lead,” Browning said.