The bald eagle should be dead.
Blue Mountain Wildlife, Eastern Oregon’s leading animal recovery center, took in the ill female juvenile raptor in January and ran a lead test. Staff had to dilute the eagle’s blood twice to obtain a lead level low enough to register on the machine. The result: 813 micrograms of lead per deciliter.
Lynn Tompkins, the center’s director, said that was the highest lead level the center has measured. A level of 20 is toxic.
“She’s still hanging in there. We just got her moved outside three days ago,” Tompkins said. “It’s kind of a miracle that she’s still alive.”
Blue Mountain Wildlife had its own surprise in the fall when it needed a new x-ray system to assess animal injuries. The x-ray machine is portable, can take images of animals as small bats and songbirds and about costs about $1,300. But the computer that digitizes the images costs about $26,000.
Tompkins asked for donations in the center’s weekly newsletter. One donor, she said, committed to $10,000, and within two weeks the center had $19,000.
“That was a pretty overwhelming response,” she said.
Blue Mountain Wildlife received another good response following an inspection Wednesday. While the state inspects the nonprofit each year, Tompkins said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted its own inspection.
“It went great,” Tompkins said. “There were no issues.”
The nonprofit is 30 years old, has four employees, and serves Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The recovery center has 18-20 birds now, she said, and this winter took in about half as many birds as last year, primarily because the weather has not been as harsh. The warmer temperatures also have some birds hatching already, she said, rather than at the end of March of early April.
The center received about $170,000 in 2014 and about $225,000 in 2015, according to its tax returns. Tompkins said grants provide some funding, but donations are the main driver. More funds would allow Blue Mountain to hire more employees and pay them better wages, she said.
Blue Mountain Wildlife’s former intern now in Palo Alto, California, is working on that, Tompkins said. She created the “Adopt-a-Bird” program for symbolic adoption of birds and is heading up a capital improvement campaign to build a roomier and more efficient hospital.
Tompkins also said Blue Mountain Wildlife would be happy to x-ray people’s packaged, frozen game meat for lead. The machine uses a minute amount of radiation that would not be harmful, she said, but still able to detect lead.
“Maybe it will be fine,” she said. “Maybe not.”