Mercury Residues in Livers of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) Found Dead or Dying in British Columbia, Canada (1987–1994)
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Postmortem examinations were conducted on 82 bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) found dead or dying in British Columbia, Canada, from 1987 to 1994. As part of the examination, livers were analyzed for total mercury (Hg) content, as well as methylmercury (meHg) and selenium (Se) in selected individuals. In total, 67 eagles were classed as having low Hg exposure [total Hg liver residues ranging from 0.5 to 17.2 mg/kg dry weight (dw)]. Fourteen eagles were moderately exposed (liver residues ranging from 19.2 to 36.8 mg/kg Hg dw). One eagle was judged to have died of Hg poisoning, with a total liver Hg content of 130.3 mg/kg dw, of which approximately 77% was meHg. The poisoned eagle and most of the exposed eagles were found in locations where effluent from pulp and paper processing plants is discharged along the British Columbia coast. In total, 6% of eagles examined died as a result of acute metal toxicosis (one from Hg poisoning, four from lead poisoning), in comparison to 72% dying from trauma (electrocution, vehicle/power line collision, eagle attack, trap, gunshot, drowning, and asphyxiation) and 11% from disease. The cause of death was undetermined in the remaining 11% of eagles.
KeywordsMercury Selenium Methylmercury Total Mercury Lead Poisoning
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