The connection between bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and the consumption of waterfowl, lead shotshell pellet ingestion, and subsequent lead exposure is well documented in the United States and is presumed also to be widespread in Canada. We compared blood lead concentrations in samples from bald eagles ranging in age from 0.5- to 1.5-yr-old at Galloway Bay, Saskatchewan, Canada (n = 97) during October–November, 1992–95 and Hauser Lake, Montana, USA (n = 81) during October-December, 1990–94, within the Great Plains region of North America. Abundant prey are available in the form of hunter-injured waterfowl in Saskatchewan and spawning salmon in Montana; both areas attract large numbers of mid-continent bald eagles during fall migration. Blood lead concentrations suggestive of recent lead exposure (>0.201 μg/ml) were found in 32% and 8% of eagles at Hauser Lake and Galloway Bay, respectively, when samples from each study area were analyzed independently at two laboratories. To determine if this difference was an artifact of interlaboratory variation, we determined a correction factor by reanalyzing 14 Saskatchewan blood samples at each laboratory and predicted blood lead concentrations from Hauser Lake had the samples been analyzed at the Canadian laboratory. Adjusted blood lead concentrations of samples from Hauser Lake indicated that 21% of eagles were recently exposed to lead, a proportion not significantly different from the proportion of the same exposure category at Galloway Bay. Our data do not support the supposition that a large proportion of bald eagles feeding on waterfowl in areas of high hunting pressure will be exposed to lead via consumption of lead shotshell pellets in waterfowl.
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Vol. 34 • No. 4