Wildlife need our help!
Over 130 different species of wildlife are known to ingest lead ammunition or fishing tackle and die.
Upland birds, like pheasants and doves, plus ducks and other waterfowl, mistake lead shot for seeds or grit and eat it.
Scavengers, like eagles and hawks, can can ingest lead when eating fish, game animal carcass, or gut piles.
Why is lead harmful?
- Lead is a toxin, a poison.
- Lead fragments have been found in processed deer meat.
- Even very low levels of lead can cause learning and attention deficit disorders in children.
- Lead can affect an animal’s health, impairing it’s ability to find food, hide from predators, and fight off diseases.
Some packages of venison from deer shot with lead rifle bullets contained more than 100 ppm lead. Items with 100 ppm lead or above are considered hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency. Some venison from deer shot with lead slugs contained 0.7 ppm lead. This venison would not meet the standards for export to Europe or China. Image © Cornatzer and Fogarty
X-ray of a deer carcass that was shot with a lead deer slug, reveals that the main body of the slug traveled completely through the deer, but lead shrapnel fragments were left in the carcass at the points where the slug passed through and shattered bone. In this x-ray of a deer’s mid-section, the lead fragments are circled where the slug went through the ribs below the spine and grazed the top of the spine.
Lead shrapnel can sometimes be detected in the x-ray of an eagle. On this eagle x-ray, the head would be to the top and the legs and tail to the bottom of the x-ray. The white spots in about the center of the photo are pieces of lead shrapnel. This is about where the stomach would be. Eagles have very strong, efficient digestive systems. The lead is usually dissolved in the stomach and sickness occurs very shortly after ingestion. Often, a lead-poisoned eagle will become injured because of an impaired nervous system, vision problems, or breathing problems caused by the lead.
Here’s what you can do!
Use non-lead ammunition and fishing tackle. If you can’t find non-lead ammo or fishing tackle at your local store, ask them to stock some. Increased demand brings down prices. Watch for off-season sales.
Waterfowl hunters have already switched to using non-toxic shot. This has saved millions of ducks from lead poisoning. Simply removing lead from waterfowl hunting has helped to make duck populations more robust and this conservation measure insured manufacturers a market for non-toxic shot, allowing them to invest in development, re-tooling, and marketing. There are now a wide assortment of non-toxic shot types to choose from and waterfowl hunters are still enjoying their time in the field. This is cost-effective conservation.
Upland game hunters that use non-toxic shot also contribute to cost-effective conservation by reducing spent lead being deposited on the landscape.
Leaving behind spent lead ammunition for a non-target species to ingest is poisoning. This poisoning is completely preventable. The solution also provides the hunter a better slug, bullet, and shot.
Make the switch!
Watch this segment from Itasca Community TV (Minnesota) of Just Outdoors – Copper Bullets that talks about ballistics, shot placement, human and wildlife health, and three shooting demonstrations.
- A copper bullet study from Wisconsin DNR (1,750 kb PDF)
- SOAR’s Non-toxic Alternatives page
- The Case for Non-Toxic Shot (MN DNR)
- Hunting with Non-lead Ammunition – Maintaining sportsmen’s conservation heritage through use of solid copper ammo
- Visit Hunting with Nonlead’s website for a compilation of non-lead ammunition videos
- Impacts of Lead Ammunition and Sinkers on Wildlife – Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service – Provides information to hunters and anglers to help them make an informed decision to voluntarily reduce impacts to wildlife. (515 kb PDF)
- Wildfowling Magazine International discussion about patterning your shotgun
- A review of Federal Premium Trophy Copper Shotgun Slugs on US Shooter website.
- California Fish & Game Certified Nonlead Ammunition Information
- Does the ban on lead shot save waterfowl? (access is limited, but can read abstract)
- Wisconsin DNR encourages hunters to “Give Nontoxics a Shot” – Download this brochure (about 3 mb PDF) and share with your friends and family that hunt. Rest assured, Wisconsin is not the only state where you can find non-toxic shot. Look for steel and other non-lead shot alternatives at your favorite sporting goods retailer. Also, look for copper slugs, sabots, and bullets for deer season.
For more information about lead, visit:
- SOAR’s Lead in the Environment page
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Centers for Disease Control
- Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
- Iowa Department of Public Health Bureau of Lead Poisoning Prevention
In the US, waterfowl hunters must use US Fish & Wildlife Service approved non-toxic/non-lead shot. Many state and county areas in Iowa and across the country also require non-toxic/non-lead shot for all hunting. In many situations, however, pheasant, turkey, rabbit, and deer hunters are still allowed to use lead ammunition.