Lead is a Poison Lead is a Poison Please note that all rescue, rehab, and release organizations earn 100% of our respect and support. Any points of disagreement are only that – disagreement – and never intended to detract from their good works. Lead is a poison – does that appear to be a commonly understood fact? Probably so, but problems and arguments arise from the use of lead ammo when hunting. Wildlife feeds on carrion left by hunters and dies from lead poisoning. This danger affects more than a couple of animals … an estimated 10 – 20 million animals currently die each year! First Learn More About the Victims, then Explore Solutions … Click image to read more directly from the Wildlife Center. National Geographic JACKSON, Wyoming—Meghan Warren grabbed the bald eagle’s legs with thick leather gloves to secure its powerful talons. With her other hand, she pinned the bird’s wings before they could unfold to their six-foot span. As Warren slowly removed the ailing eagle from an oxygen chamber at the animal hospital where she worked, it suddenly awakened from a stupor. It snapped its yellow hooked beak, puncturing her right cheek. Blood trickled down her face. “Oh, my God!” shouted a veterinary technician, jumping back. It was a surprising move for a bird in such poor shape. Less than 36 hours earlier, this eagle was too weak to hold up its white-feathered head. It arrived at the Teton Raptor Center slumped on its breast, wings drooped: another casualty of lead poisoning. This was the third eagle in a little over a month to arrive in such a feeble state. During Wyoming’s big game hunting season, virtually all eagles have lead in their system from scavenging bullet-riddled carrion. A half dozen or so lead-poisoned ones make it to the rehab center every year, but no one knows how many die unseen in the backcountry. The death of one of them a few weeks earlier still haunted Warren. It was a female, the largest bald eagle Warren had ever handled in her three years at the Teton Raptor Center. She had rescued the eagle from the snow on a ranch along the Hoback River, then administered injections of medicines and chelating agents and force-fed it food and liquids under the instructions of a veterinarian. But that eagle died within a week. Just a week ago, another one had died within 24 hours of its arrival. Read more… Soar Raptors Learn more from Soar Full article link here. The bald eagle admitted on 13 December 2011 that had been caught in a leg-hold trap also had elevated blood lead levels (BLL) of 9.6 µg/dL. She coughed up a pellet (accumulated undigested material, in the case of eagles primarily hair) shortly after initial exam at SOAR. This pellet was x-rayed for lead fragments. The bright white flecks are lead fragments that were not dissolved and absorbed into her blood stream. The leg-hold traps were set near a deer carcass. Had she not been caught in the trap and found, it is likely she would’ve continued to eat off this deer carcass and ingest more lead. A 1997 University of Minnesota Raptor Center retrospective study concluded that spent lead ammunition is an important source of lead exposure for bald eagles. TRC also undertook a subsequent retrospective study to test the hypothesis that lead fragments in carcasses and gutpiles of white-tailed deer represents an important source of lead exposure lead in bald eagles. Read this research paper published in Spring 2012. (461 kb PDF) Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association Click above link or image to read full article. More resources: The Raptor Center National Wildlife Health Center KTVZ reports: Bald Eagle survives lead poisoning; many others don’t Teton Raptor Center Biological Diversity Why is a Solution Difficult to Reach? The Wildlife Center of Virginia makes a valid point when they say, “No responsible, ethical hunter wants to kill an eagle or other raptor. Hunters who are not using non-toxic shot, or properly disposing of animal remains, probably don’t understand the issue. We must educate these hunters, not judge or condemn them. By keeping it positive, we will make a difference.” The Wildlife Center of Virginia makes an additional point that explains the extreme polarization of American citizens on efforts to reduce or eliminate lead ammo (and fishing tackle) from the environment – hunters see these efforts as a way to make it impossible to make use of guns, effectively banning all hunting. While it is extremely rare in the U.S. for a family to subsist off game animals, there is a small section of the American citizenry who greatly enjoy hunting. Killing prey animals, that have securely established healthy population numbers, for food should be acceptable whether hunting is everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ or not – given that reasonable safety measures are followed. In fact, because Americans have exterminated apex predators from the natural ecosystem so thoroughly, ungulates would overpopulate to the point of starvation in many areas without hunting. While many non-hunters abhor the thought of a badly placed shot causing an animal to suffer, starvation is a much slower way to die and causes much suffering – in addition to the fact that starving ungulates will strip bark from young trees and shrubbery, destroying the source of their diet. Hunters often mistakenly believe that an exit wound insures the lead ammo does not contaminate the carcass though it is a common occurrence for a lead bullet to fragment when it hits a body, especially if it hits bone. “In nearly every case bullets will fragment or break apart…Hunting bullets leave behind as much as 30 percent of the original bullet mass in the muscles or internal organs of the target animal, even when the largest part of the bullet passes through. Since most of these fragments are very small, their potential significance is easily overlooked by hunters. Only recently has it been shown that these tiny fragments of lead can be toxic if ingested by scavenging or predatory birds.” Wildlife Center of Virginia statements that are inadvertently misleading are as follows (along with preface material for clarity): Controversy over what to do about the problem of lead toxicity in wildlife erupted in 2010, when two conservation organizations sought to ban the manufacture, sale, and use of ALL lead-based ammunition components. Over the strong objections of the Wildlife Center of Virginia and many other groups, The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the American Bird Conservancy filed a petition with EPA to achieve this sweeping prohibition through the Toxic Substances Control Act. As expected, EPA immediately rejected the petition, because the requested action would have affected 1)Exceptions are easily made to exempt all activities outside of hunting activities that put wildlife at risknot only those using lead for hunting purposes, but also all military and police agencies, as well as competitive and recreational shooters, in effect 2)INCORRECT: Non-lead bullets are certainly available. Check Cabela’s! Read more about non-lead manufacturers. eliminating nearly all available ammunition for every firearm currently in use in the United States. 3)For clarity, the overwhelming majority of lead-based munitions components are not left in carcasses to endanger wildlife.Since the overwhelming majority of lead-based munitions components pose little or no threat to the environment, EPA refused to even consider such an over-reaching approach to a relatively finite problem. In spite of EPA’s prompt rejection of the petition, several organizations representing gun owners and shooting sports, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), denounced what they saw as a deliberate attack on their millions of members. They mounted a national campaign that branded the lead toxicity issue as a backdoor attempt to ban legal hunting and interfere with constitutionally protected gun ownership. 4)INCORRECT – as stated and easily proven by browsing ammo retailer options, non-lead ammo is available for most rifles, shotgun slugs, pistols, and even for muzzle loaders, and as pellets. Even though this was not the intent of the petitioners, it clearly would have been the unintended consequence of their initiative. As a result, the discussion of lead toxicity related to spent bullets and shot is now extremely polarized. Even the ability to hold a civil public discussion of the issue has become far more difficult. [Font formatting added to clarify following address.] The Wildlife Center of Virginia suggests that the actions below should be voluntary for hunters. While it’s a nice thought that we are all responsible and mindful enough to commit to honoring voluntary recommendations, history tells us that man is often unwilling to help himself unless it’s required. Ever struggle to teach a kid that brushing their teeth is necessary? You explained how tooth decay and gum disease develop and finally you resorted to telling them it was required, right? The issue of lead poisoning of eagles and other birds of prey can be almost entirely eliminated through one of two voluntary steps hunters can take: 1) the use of non-lead ammunition for actual hunting; and/or 2) the recovery and proper disposal of animal carcasses or parts which may contain lead fragments that are left in the field. For most popular calibers of hunting rifles, ammunition with non-lead projectiles is available. While slightly more expensive, the use of non-lead projectiles eliminates the need for any further attention to the lead-poisoning issue on the part of the hunter. To minimize the burden of the additional cost, lead ammunition can be used on the range to sight-in or practice with hunting weapons, but non-lead ammunition of the same size and ballistic characteristics can be used in actual pursuit of quarry. If hunters are unwilling or unable to switch from lead bullets and shot, hunters should bury animal carcasses or parts that may contain lead fragments that are left in the field. Tissues within 16-20 inches of the trajectory of the bullet tract may be contaminated with lead fragments. If burial is not practical, due to the size of the remains or frozen ground, these animal parts can be covered with brush to prevent avian scavengers, such as eagles or vultures, from reaching the remains. While scavenging mammals, such as opossums, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, or bears, may still feed on these remains, the effects of very small amounts of lead seem to be less significant in mammals than in birds. Give incentives Give hunters incentive to use lead-free. Hunting license bonuses? For example, lead-free users receive extra chances for restricted game licenses under a points system? – With an understandable heavy penalty if they are found using lead ammo, of course. When contacting your legislators, consider offering these compromise measures while advising them clearly that lead ammo is an environmental issue that can affect your vote. References [ + ] 1. ↑ Exceptions are easily made to exempt all activities outside of hunting activities that put wildlife at risk 2. ↑ INCORRECT: Non-lead bullets are certainly available. Check Cabela’s! Read more about non-lead manufacturers. 3. ↑ For clarity, the overwhelming majority of lead-based munitions components are not left in carcasses to endanger wildlife. 4. ↑ INCORRECT – as stated and easily proven by browsing ammo retailer options, non-lead ammo is available for most rifles, shotgun slugs, pistols, and even for muzzle loaders, and as pellets.