This osprey was released back into Golden Ears Park on Wednesday. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

Osprey with lead poisoning rescued from B.C. provincial park

Raptor spent one month in rehabilitation

An adolescent osprey found with lead poisoning in Golden Ears Park was released back into the wild on Wednesday.

Julie Bryson, a volunteer with OWL, Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in Delta, was called out to the park on July 4 when campers discovered the lethargic, disoriented bird along the shore of Alouette Lake.

The campers brought it back to their camp site where they alerted park rangers who, in turn alerted OWL.

Bryson is on call for the society and picks up birds of prey that are injured. She assesses them quickly then either takes them to the vet or to OWL.

Bryson could tell right away the raptor had lead poisoning and took him to OWL where he underwent treatment.

The osprey was poisoned by the lead weights used for fishing. The weights that are crimped onto the fishing lines fall off if they are not attached properly or if the line hits a rock. Fish eat the weights and osprey, birds that eat only fish, ingest the lead as it makes its way up the food chain.

“What happens is it gets into their bone marrow and it starts to decay their bone marrow. So they need a special treatment for lead poisoning,” explained Bryson.

Rob Hope, raptor care manager with OWL, oversaw the raptor’s care.

“Upon receiving him we did a lead test on him because neurologically he was acting abnormal,” explained Hope.

“After he tested positive we put him on a medication, it’s called chelation treatment, ” he said explaining that chelation is an inter-muscular injection given to the bird that removes the lead from the bones and puts it in the soft tissue.

“What they do is they store it in the bone as calcium so we have to remove it from the bone to get it into the soft tissue and then as the bird eats and poops and everything, it’s basically removed from the body naturally,” Hope explained.

After a week of treatment the osprey was tested again for lead and his reading was low meaning that most of the lead, if not all of it had been removed.

He was then put in a 37 metre flight cage with a 24 metre pool full of live trout for three more weeks to build up muscle and make sure he was flying strong before being released.

Hope noted that lead poisoning is common for ospreys and eagles but most of the time the birds are found either too late to be saved or already dead. However if they are found on time they have a good chance of being saved.

As far as Hope is concerned this osprey has a clean bill of health.

It was released back into Golden Ears Park in case he has a mate or family in the area.

“We try to keep them in the area they are born in,” said Bryson.

“A lot of the raptors do mate for life. They have a really strong bond. And they come back to the same fishing holes and the same nests every year,” she said.

Bryson and Hope would like anglers to use non-leaded weights for their rods.

“They can think about using non-lead fishing gear. It is a little more money, but the effects on the environment and themselves, definitely the extra few bucks is worth it,” said Hope.

“And as well as anybody out hunting, switching to a non-lead ammunition, which is out there as well, is definitely a start. The more lead we can remove from the environment, that we have control of, of course, the better it’s going to be in the future,” he said.

For more information about OWL go to owlrehab.org.

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