Lead shot ingestion by bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is considered to be widespread and has been implicated in the death of eagles in nature. It was recently demonstrated under experimental conditions that ingestion of as few as 10 lead shot resulted in death within 12 to 20 days. In the present study hematological responses to lead toxicity including red blood cell ALAD activity, hemoglobin concentration and 23 different blood serum chemistries were examined in five captive bald eagles that were unsuitable for rehabilitation and release. Eagles were dosed by force-feeding with 10 lead shot; they were redosed if regurgitation occurred. Red blood cell ALAD activity was inhibited by nearly 80% within 24 hours when mean blood lead concentration had increased to 0.8 parts per million (ppm). By the end of 1 week there was a significant decrease (20-25%) in hematocrit and hemoglobin, and the mean blood lead concentration was over 3 ppm. Within as little as 1-2 weeks after dosing, significant elevations in serum creatinine and serum alanine aminotransferase occurred, as well as a significant decrease in the ratio of serum aspartic aminotransferase to serum alanine aminotransferase. The mean blood lead concentration was over 5 ppm by the end of 2 weeks. These changes in serum chemistry may be indicative of kidney and liver alterations.
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