As Alberta hunters head to the bush for the fall season, a wildlife rescue agency hopes the death of a poisoned eagle will push hunters to stop using lead-based ammunition.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton said it was forced to euthanize a golden eagle Monday after it was found scavanging a deer carcass near Evansburg, Alta., about 1 ½ hours west of Edmonton.

 

'It's devastating because it is 100 percent preventable.' —Debra Jakubec, Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton

A hunter captured the bird, which had become weak, and brought it to the wildlife group's care centre near Edmonton.

Staff hoped the bird would survive, but it started to suffer violent seizures. A test revealed elevated levels of lead in the eagle, likely caused by a spent cartridge used by a deer hunter.

"We've seen an increasing number of animals come in with lead poisoning," society director Debra Jakubec said in a news release.

"It's devastating because it is 100 percent preventable."

It is the fifth bird of prey the society has euthanized in the last year because of lead poisoning.

According to the group, lead shot was banned across Canada for waterfowl hunting in 1998, but some hunters still use it for big-game hunting.

"We hope that by letting the public know about this eagle, hunters will remember to clean up what they kill and not leave it behind," said the group's animal care manager, Holly Duval.

"Or better yet, switch to non-lead pellets and buckshot."

Golden eagles are listed as a "sensitive" species by Alberta Fish and Wildlife, which means it is not at risk but may need special attention or protection to prevent it from becoming at risk. The birds nest in the mountains and foothills most of the year, and travel the prairies in winter.