Bald eagles have been making a huge comeback across New York in recent years, overcoming the disastrous impact of DDT that nearly pushed them to extinction. Yet, these majestic birds still face another challenge that's making biologists and environmentalists worried.

Enter lead poisoning from bullet fragments.

A study by Cornell University in 2022 found that a 4% to 6% reduction in the growth rate of both male and female bald eagles was connected to ingesting lead fragments from hunters' bullets.

Biologist Kathleen Clark explains that hunters often leave animal remains after taking their desired parts, leaving the rest behind in woods or fields. As eagles feed on these carcasses, they may end up consuming the lead fragments, which could result in serious consequences.

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Lead is a neurotoxin and could cause havoc to eagles and other raptors. When lead fragments get into their stomachs, they can easily break down, get absorbed into their bloodstream, and ultimately damage their brains.

In response, coalitions promoting non-lead alternatives are encouraging hunters to shift away from using lead ammunition. This initiative is already working successfully in waterfowl hunting, where lead bullets are prohibited. The goal is to stretch the practice to all types of hunting, reducing the risk of lead exposure to eagles, raptors, and other birds of prey.

RELATED: Bald Eagles Make a Triumphant Return to New York

A suggested way to minimize the chances of birds feeding on lead-contaminated food sources is for hunters to bury the remaining carcasses instead of leaving them in open fields.

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