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Golden Eagle Released After Bullets Removed

This was the moment when a rare Golden Eagle was released back into the wild after it was rescued by Austrian hunters.

The seriously ill bird was on the verge of death when it was found in the Austrian Tyrol's Paznauntal Valley region.

They took the bird to vets where experts realised that it was suffering from lead poisoning having eaten lead pellets that had probably been used to shoot something that the eagle had then eaten.

The Golden Eagle, a male bird estimated to be at least 15 years old, was nicknamed "grandpa" because eagles rarely live to such an advanced age in the wild.

The head of the local hunting union Anton Larcher said: "One of the main aims of hunters in the region is to encourage biodiversity. The Golden Eagle needs to be looked after and protected and we were happy to make sure that our organisation paid the 2,500 Euro costs of the treatment."

Although experts had warned the eagle was unlikely to survive it surprised everybody by recovering and after just six months of treatment by vet Tanja Meister showed itself eager to get back into the wild. After being well fed it was released this week and instantly made its way straight back to its hunting ground.

The hunters are also campaigning for the creation of lead free shot alternatives for nature reserves in particular to avoid similar cases of lead poisoning among predator animals.

Golden Eagle expert Mathias Premm said: "These birds have particularly strong stomach acid that in part dissolves the lead which ends up in their blood. When he was found the bird could barely stand and certainly could not fly any more. It is really important that an alternative to lead is found that doesn't cause this problem with birds of prey.

"Grandpa survived – others have not been so lucky. If eagles do find a fresh kill they will scavenge, and if there are shot pellets in the courts they will eat it. Invariably this causes death."

In April a few months before grandpa was found another golden eagle with lead poisoning had been recovered and on this occasion it did not survive.

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