Cars Pose Significant Risk to Bald Eagles

Apr 24, 2014

Spring migration means more birds arriving in the Northwoods, including eagles. 

Eagle populations are on the rise in the Northwoods.
Credit Ron Holmes / US Fish and Wildlife Service

DNR wildlife biologist Jeremy Holtz says by some estimates, car strikes represent the leading cause of eagle deaths.

Holtz explains that eagles typically take flight from high up in a tree.  But in times of low food availability they turn to roadside carcasses which can put eagles in the path of danger.   

“They’re not adapted to taking flight while standing on the ground.  They need to take six to eight full wing beats, while hopping on the ground, to get enough lift to fly.  Unfortunately, eagles often head toward the road for their runway and collide with vehicles.”

Marge Gibson at Antigo’s Raptor Education Group says they have almost twenty bald eagles at the rehab center right now.  But most of the birds coming in suffer from other kinds of injuries.  She says lead poisoning happens when an eagle eats carrion that has been shot with lead ammunition. 

“Lead poisoning now…because the snow has melted and these carcasses are now exposed, and they have access to them again – we’re starting to see it a lot more.” 

She says car strike injuries are also common, but typically pick up later in the spring when green foliage makes it harder to see eagles along the side of the road.