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Group concerned about bald eagles after Trump reverses lead ammunition ban on federal lands

Posted at 7:22 PM, Mar 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-14 20:22:23-04

ROGERS COUNTY, Okla. -- President Donald Trump is spending his first few months in office rolling back policies put in place by his predecessor.

Ryan Zinke, the new Interior Secretary, recently reversed a ban on the use of ammunition and fishing tackle containing lead on federal wildlife refuges. A wildlife rescue group in Rogers County is now worried about the effect that might have on the growing bald eagle population in Green Country.

Director Annette King said that when an injured animal comes into the care of Wild Heart Ranch, it's usually because of something that a human has done. That's why she has long opposed the use of ammunition containing lead because it can cause the poisoning of other wildlife.

"Of all the animals we deal with, the animal that is the most affected by lead poisoning is our national symbol: the bad eagle," King said. "That alone is enough reason to consider lead alternatives."

King said her group has cared for more than 30 bald eagles during the past seven years. During that time, she said that half of the eagles have ended up dying from lead poisoning.

She said the poisoning often happens because eagles will eat whatever hunters, who use lead shot, leave behind.

"If this substance is this fatal to eagles in a small amount, if we ignore it, if we neglect it, it's going to get worse and worse," King said. "Eventually we're going to have a problem that affects us."

On the last day of President Barack Obama's presidency, an order went into effect banning lead ammunition and fishing tackle on federal land. The new Interior Secretary, however, reversed that decision on his first day in office.

The National Rifle Association applauded the decision, saying in a statement that the initial ban "was a last second attack on traditional ammunition and our hunting heritage."

King said she does not support a complete ban on the use of lead ammunition. She would instead like hunters to use alternatives that would not have the devastating consequences that she has seen lead have on bald eagles.

"We've only had an eagle population in this area of Oklahoma for seven years, and I'm losing most of them to lead toxicity," King said. "That's a wake-up call. It's serious. We need to address it."