Just as lead is toxic to humans, it is toxic to wildlife. Over the past three years, City Wildlife has treated 42 patients confirmed with lead poisoning, including squirrels, opossums, and raptors. In wildlife, lead poisoning usually manifests itself as neurological symptoms, such as lack of balance and coordination, circling, and inability to stand upright. At City Wildlife, we test for lead on site using a blood sample from the patient. Treatment involves medications that bind to the lead and take it out of the body.
Lead can leach into the environment through a variety of ways, including old lead-based paints, lead ammunition, and lead fishing sinkers. Dust from lead-based paints can leach into the soil, contaminating it. When hunters use lead ammunition, the bullets fragment upon intake. These fragments spread throughout the body of the victim and can also get into the environment. If tainted meat is left in the environment, scavengers, such as Bald Eagles and vultures, can become poisoned if they eat it. The same goes for predators that eat fish that have ingested lead fishing sinkers. In order to protect wildlife, the environment, and themselves, hunters and fishers should avoid lead ammunition and lead fishing sinkers.
If you find a sick or injured wild animal who needs help, please call us at (202) 882-1000.