Saving Our Avian Resources (SOAR) is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1999 dedicated to saving our avian resources through raptor rehabilitation, education, and research. SOAR maintains all necessary US Fish & Wildlife Service and Iowa DNR permits to provide the rehabilitation and education.
- Establish a regional raptor rehabilitation facility to serve western Iowa.
- Use personal connections with individual, wild animals to bring attention to important natural resource conservation projects and issues.
- Conserve habitat, conduct needed research, and provide educational opportunities.
Two raptors caught in leghold traps in less than three weeks... not the kind of injuries we like to see… unfortunately we seem to get a few in each year.
A red-tailed hawk was rescued in mid-December from a leghold trap that had exposed bait illegally set. The hawk's right leg was almost severed by the trap and had to be humanely euthanized. The sad part was, by the color of his eyes (the darker brown the eyes, the older the red-tail) he was likely 20+ years old.
On January 5, hunters / Good Samaritans found a juvenile bald eagle caught in a leghold trap (see patient page for details) that was set near a deer gut pile.
Hunters, anglers, and trappers are often our raptor rescuers! These people spend a lot of time outdoors and SOAR is so thankful that they are willing to take the time to help injured wildlife.
Traps set too close to exposed bait have the chance of catching a non-intended animal. Double trap sets (one trap set very near another) also can trap a non-intended animal. For example, two leghold traps set near each other... one catches a skunk that attracts and catches a great-horned owl (this was the scenario for one GHO patient last year).
If you trap (or hunt or fish), please read the current regulations and know what is acceptable and allowable.
From the 2013-14 Iowa Hunting and Trapping regulations book:
Exposed Bait -- You cannot set or maintain any foothold or body-gripping trap or snare within 20 feet of exposed bait on land anywhere in the state, or over water in the following areas:
a) Mississippi River corridor - Allamakee, Clayton, Dubuque, Jackson, Clinton, Scott, Muscatine, Louisa, Des Moines and Lee counties.
b) Missouri River corridor - Those portions of Woodbury, Monona, Harrison, Pottawattamie, Mills and Fremont counties west of Interstate 29.
c) Des Moines River corridor - Boone, Dallas, Polk, Marion, Mahaska, Wapello and Van Buren counties.
“Exposed bait” means meat or viscera [soft innards] of any animal, bird, fish, amphibian or reptile with or without skin, hide or feathers that is visible to soaring birds.
Ethical behavior is what you do when no one is looking.
Lead Poisoning Prevention
From Kay Neumann, SOAR Executive Director
December 11, 2013
It has been a difficult week and its only Wednesday! SOAR has had three lead poisoning cases in as many days. A Trumpeter Swan was found dead in Cass County on Monday. An adult male eagle (photo, middle) from Raptor Resource Project arrived Tuesday and died just as we were transferring him into my vehicle. This morning, an adult female eagle died. She had come in from Carroll County (Bennett Access eagle, photo right) with blood lead levels greater than 0.65 ppm, and we had been giving her chelation injections since the day after Thanksgiving.
Rehabilitators in Iowa have been gathering data on lead poisoning in wildlife for the last ten years. It is still heartbreaking each time we lose one of these patients. Necropsies were done on the swan and the male eagle today. A lead sinker was found in the swan’s gizzard and lead shrapnel (a fragment from a lead bullet or slug) was found in the eagle’s stomach.
Lead sinker from the swan's gizzard Piece of lead shrapnel from Bluffton eagle's stomach
Lead is a toxin that destroys liver, kidney, and brain tissue. It bumps oxygen off of red blood cells, this is what causes the lead poisoned birds to gasp for air. Their bodies are signaling a need for oxygen, but no matter how hard they try the lead will not allow the blood to carry the oxygen they are gulping in. Despite our best efforts, only a few of the lead poisoning cases make it. Prevention is the only best option.
Iowa has just had its first shotgun slug deer season. There will be another shotgun season and then a muzzleloader season for harvesting deer. By the middle of January, if it’s a normal year, hunters will have taken around 150,000 deer in Iowa with firearms. With wounding rates at about 10% of harvest, 15,000 deer carcasses will be available and many, many gut piles. If the deer was shot with a lead bullet or slug there will be lead shrapnel in the carcass and gut pile. These items are food for our eagles. If the deer has been shot with a copper bullet or slug, the gut piles and carcasses will be a good lead-free, poison-free food source. A simple switch to nonlead ammunition would prevent lead poisoning in eagles.
Iowa wildlife rehabilitators have taken full body x-rays of 145 bald eagles. Eleven of these have still had shrapnel in the digestive tract, six had lead shot in their digestive tracts, and one had an entire .22 lead core bullet in her stomach. Ninety four of these 145 (65%) had abnormal lead levels in blood or liver tests. Many times the lead has been completely digested before the eagle is admitted and we cannot see it on x-ray.
Too many eagles and other wildlife are dying preventable deaths. Please help us spread the word and convince hunters to use non-lead ammunition (shot, slugs, bullets!) and anglers to use non-lead tackle and sinkers.
One piece of the SOAR mission is to provide education. With help from our 'educational ambassador team,' SOAR educators talk with all ages of people about raptor biology, habitat conservation, natural resource issues, and the rehab and research work of SOAR.
Most groups and organizations are able to provide the suggested donation / fee for these programs, but not all. Some groups requesting a program have no or very limited funds themselves and are just the type of group we WANT to speak with -- college student clubs (we hope some of the students will be the next group of environmental leaders) and public events.
SOAR also has opportunity, from time to time, to present our eagles and lead research to other natural resource professionals - these opportunities mean WE pay. Your help can help us share that research!
SOAR has a dedicated fund that we can use to help provide programs. The "well" is currently dry. Interested in adding to this fund? Click here to learn more!
SOAR featured on IPTV Iowa Outdoors Episode #305
Iowa Public Television videographer Chris Gourley spent time in the field and at SOAR filming for this segment... Click here to see the segment of the show about SOAR.
Remember -- protected predators keep the balance!
Unfortunately it's that time of year when we can see red-tailed hawks admitted with what are likely gunshot wounds. See photo right of a bird admitted 30 October 2012 >>>.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and state laws make it illegal to kill, capture, possess, harass, or harm any bird of prey. Violations are punishable by fines of $5,000 to $250,000 or more, jail sentences, confiscation of possessions, and revocation of licenses.
Red-tailed hawks are the most regularly seen, large, sit-and-hunt, small mammal predator. They seem to be everywhere in the fall as young disperse and northern birds move in to take advantage of open hunting ground. This changes by late February. The resident nesting pairs clean house by chasing all other hawks out of their territories.
Don't get caught believing that hawks are eating all the game birds! Did you know that 75% of red-tailed hawk's diet is made up of small mammals like rabbits, mice, rats, and ground squirrels?
- Download a 2-page PDF on how raptors help "keep the balance."
Research paper on non-toxic ammunition product availability, price, effectiveness published
The product availability and retail prices of different calibers of lead-free bullets and center-fire rifle ammunition were compared to lead-core rifle ammunition were compared. Product effectiveness was also reviewed. Paper from 2012. Download paper. (292 KB PDF)
Lead from spent ammunition: a source of exposure and poisoning in bald eagles
Researcher from the University of Minnesota Raptor Center and the University of Calgary conducted a case-control study of 1,277 bald eagles admitted to TRC between January 1996 and December 2009. The study sought to determine whether epidemiological data would support the hypothesis that a possible source of lead exposure for bald eagles was lead-based ammunition used for deer hunting. Statistical evidence relates spent lead from ammunition to lead exposure and poisoning in eagles. Also, the study shows an association between eagles with elevated lead levels and deer hunting season.
- Read the study report in the journal, Human Wildlife Interactions Spring 2012 issue (461 KB PDF)
Human-made hazards abound
It's difficult being a wild creature in the human landscape. Dangers lurk around every corner and navigating them is a challenge. Look out your window and you're likely to see at least a couple hazards for our furred and feathered friends. SOAR admits most patients because of human-bird interaction that has gone wrong -- shotgun pellets in the bird, bird being hit by a vehicle, bird's nest tree cut down, and birds eating spent lead hunting ammunition just to name a few.
Many of these interactions can have a better outcome with a bit of intervention.
- Bird safe power poles - Raptor Resource Project blog 11/26/12, scroll down just a bit to get to the entry on the 26th.
- Perch plans for bird safe power poles on Flickr
How about planting a seed with your local power company and giving them the "Raptors at Risk" video... order here!