12/29/2011 04:03 EST | Updated 02/28/2012 05:12 EST

Biologist fears for bald eagles gorging at dump

A Thunder Bay wildlife biologist is worried about the bald eagles at the city's dump.

Brian Ratcliff said the birds may be eating some things that are bad for their health. Ratcliff is a familiar face at Thunder Bay's landfill site. But it’s not trash disposal that brings him there.

Each fall, Ratcliff comes to observe the dozens of bald eagles that take up residence at the dump. He's seen up to 150 at one time. The species was almost wiped out in the 60s and 70s by DDT, a synthetic insecticide.

“There's a lot of nasty things out here in the landfill for these birds,” Ratcliff said. “A lot of plastics and food wrapped in plastic.”

But University of Manitoba biologist Kyle Elliot isn't quite so worried.

He co-authored a scientific study on the eating habits of eagles at landfills.

“We never found anything detrimental,” he said. “They seemed to be primarily feeding on household waste — red meat and chicken, that type of stuff, [that] people were throwing out.”

However, Ratcliff said he's glad the eagles only make short pit stops at the dump each fall, just before they migrate south.

He said the species has made a remarkable comeback and is thriving largely due to reduced pollution levels in the Great Lakes.