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Environ Sci Technol. 2017 May 16;51(10):5729-5736. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.6b06024. Epub 2017 Apr 26.

Sublethal Lead Exposure Alters Movement Behavior in Free-Ranging Golden Eagles.

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Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Environmental Studies, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences , SE-90183 Umeå, Sweden.
Department of Aquatic Science and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences , Box 7050, SE-75007 Uppsala, Sweden.
Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences , Campus Evenstad, NO-2480 Koppang, Norway.
Department of Environmental Research and Monitoring, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Box 50007, SE-10405 Stockholm, Sweden.
State Key Laboratory of Pollution Control and Resource Reuse, College of Environmental Science and Engineering, Tongji University , Shanghai 200092, China.
Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University , SE-90187 Umeå, Sweden.
Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry, ACES, Stockholm University , SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Pathology and Wildlife Diseases, National Veterinary Institute (SVA) , SE-75189 Uppsala, Sweden.
Cellular Tracking Technologies, Rio Grande, New Jersey 08242, United States.
Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia University , Morgantown, West Virginia 26506, United States.
ALS Scandinavia AB, Aurorum 10, SE-97775 Luleå, Sweden.


Lead poisoning of animals due to ingestion of fragments from lead-based ammunition in carcasses and offal of shot wildlife is acknowledged globally and raises great concerns about potential behavioral effects leading to increased mortality risks. Lead levels in blood were correlated with progress of the moose hunting season. Based on analyses of tracking data, we found that even sublethal lead concentrations in blood (25 ppb, wet weight), can likely negatively affect movement behavior (flight height and movement rate) of free-ranging scavenging Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos). Lead levels in liver of recovered post-mortem analyzed eagles suggested that sublethal exposure increases the risk of mortality in eagles. Such adverse effects on animals are probably common worldwide and across species, where game hunting with lead-based ammunition is widespread. Our study highlights lead exposure as a considerably more serious threat to wildlife conservation than previously realized and suggests implementation of bans of lead ammunition for hunting.

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