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Wildlife sleuths used forensic science to determine what was killing bald eagles along the Upper Mississippi River corridor. Laboratory tests showed that nearly two-thirds of the 58 eagles examined had lead concentrations and more than one-third had clinical lead poisoning. The lab results deepened the mystery as to how these meat eating predators could have been exposed to lead.

Bald eagles live in our area year round with several nesting pairs in the Clinton area, especially within the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. In winter, hundreds of eagles gather along Clinton’s northern shoreline to feed on the sushi buffet floating in the tailwaters of Lock and Dam 13.

Eagles die of many causes. Refuge staff collect dead eagles and send them to the National Eagle Repository in Denver that distributes eagle feathers to Native American tribes for religious ceremonies.

In January 2012, Refuge biologists began investigation into the causes of death for 58 bald eagles. Many eagles appeared healthy externally, however, internal examination unraveled the trail of death for some.

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