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A mature bald eagle takes flight during the Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey at the Montezuma National wildlife Refuge.

Despite a successful comeback after nearly disappearing from New York state, bald eagles are facing a potentially lethal problem — lead poisoning.

A 22-year study done by the New York State Wildlife Health Program discovered that out of 300 bald eagles tested, about 17 percent had high lead levels, high enough to be lethal. The remaining bald eagles tested for exposure to lead.

The program is a partnership between the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine's New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Center.

Krysten Schuler, wildlife disease ecologist with the diagnostic center, said in a press release that despite a national ban on the use of lead ammunition for waterfowl hunting in 1991, lead is still routinely used in some ammunition and fishing tackle.

"While the American bald eagle population has rebounded, lead is still a serious risk particularly to the adult, breeding-age birds," Schuler said in the press release.

Scientists will start to analyze where the lead found in bald eagle mortalities comes from, collaborating with Northeast states and provinces to identify those locations, she added.