Tucson Wildlife Center

Rescue | Rehab | Release (520) 290-9453

Getting the Lead Out

If you are one of Nature’s clean up crew, a turkey vulture, you are picky about what you eat.  Freshly dead meat, between one and three days dead is preferred. Birds can not chew, and every hunk of meat a vulture swallows may include a few extras; insects, whole lead bullets or fragments of lead bullets. 

Lead ammunition is an indiscriminate gift that keeps on giving.  A wounded animal may escape the hunter, die, and be eaten by other carnivores and vultures who can quickly or over time, fall victim to lead poisoning.  

Such is the case of a turkey vulture being cared for at Tucson Wildlife Center.  Upon arrival, unable to fly, it was x-rayed and found to have a stomach full of lead.  Collateral damage, but lucky to be alive.   She received treatments by staff doctors to purge her stomach of the lead. It will take many weeks to purge the lead toxin from her blood stream, but she is starting to eat on her own and gaining some strength. 

It will be a day of celebration when she returns to the sky to rejoin her tight-knit family. They will be migrating back to Tucson soon and continue to fulfill their special niche in nature.

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For help and emergencies, please call our 24/7 helpline at (520) 290-9453.

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