Castalia-based Back to the Wild animal refuge center founder Mona Rutger says
that years ago man-made toxins became partly responsible for bald eagles finding a spot on the endangered species list, which they are not anymore.
In Lake Erie pesticides from farm runoff was causing a problem.
“It’s probably not from the fish much anymore. They used to be full of DDT, of course, and that’s been banned and they’ve made a tremendous comeback because DDT has been eliminated. But they were getting poisoned right and left,” Mona said.
“It was a pesticide, and they ate so much fish. Its runoff, and when it rained the DDT got into the lakes and rivers and streams and it poisoned the fish and it passed through the food chain to the eagles. Eagles eat a tremendous amount of fish,” she continued.
“But that has been pretty much corrected, and they’ve rebounded and they are no longer endangered and there are literally over a thousand eagles in Ohio today and there were 215 nests this year. But there are still other toxins out there — PCBs.
“One thing, he could have even eaten a road kill animal or some animal that had lead in it because they are scavengers,” Mona said in regards to a bald eagle rescued on Cedar Point Road near the Jerusalem Township-Oregon line two days before Thanksgiving.
Mona said there are numerous other ways bald eagles can get poisoned.
“This didn’t happen in Ohio, but in Wisconsin they lost a huge amount of eagles and they traced it to a landfill where some animal carcasses were treated with a chemical for euthanasia and they fed on those carcasses and all those eagles died. But that didn’t happen around here,” Mona said.
Mona said her organization released another bald eagle two weeks ago on the banks of a river in Sandusky County that had been rescued.
Back to the Wild has nine eagles remaining in its possession, and most will stay because they can never be nursed fully back to health.
There are good uses for the eagles that remain at the center, Mona said.
“We educate about 70,000 kids a year where they come out here for field trips and they learn not to repeat the mistakes of the past generation because we’re counting on them to keep the planet healthy for the future generations,” Mona said.
“Most of the ones (eagles) we have here now are disabled permanently, and we have federal permission to use them for educational purposes,” Mona said. “If those eagles are being ambassadors and making an impact on those kids, they’ll have really done a great cause. We can’t educate here effectively without this living proof of what the human impact on the environment has done to them.”
The center, which provides public tours, has bobcats, foxes, over 60 hawks, and owls in its care right now.
“We’re not even allowed to do this without their (Department of Natural Resources) permits because we can’t even have these eagles in our possession without federal and state permits,” Mona said.
“I founded the center 20 years ago and afterward he (husband Bill Rutger) retired and he became completely involved and we’ve rescued over at least 2,500 animals a year for the last 15 years. Our whole purpose is to return those animals to the wild.”