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Landfill Scavenging Eagles Dying

May 1, 2002

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) _ Bald eagles are getting sick and dying in South Carolina after scavenging pets and strays that have been euthanized and disposed of legally in landfills.

During the past three years, the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey has received 10 bald eagles confirmed to have eaten pentobarbital, which is used to euthanize cats and dogs, said Jim Elliott, director of the center. Six others were suspected of having ingested pentobarbital.

Of the 16, five died, nine were released after treatment and two are at the center awaiting release.

A group of government and private agencies has been working to assess the problem, which is likely not limited to South Carolina. Information is being collected from other states, Elliott said.

State regulations require that dead animals be brought to a landfill area where waste is being buried that day and covered with six to 12 inches of clean soil. Elliott said it’s not clear if the remains should be buried deeper or if they are not being covered quickly.

``We’re trying to sort out whether the problem exists from the way the regulations are written or the way they are followed,″ Elliott said.

The agencies alerted landfill operators, animal shelters and veterinarians about the problem, asking them to review their procedures.

Eagles, once an endangered species, have been removed from the list of endangered and threatened species.

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