George Bird Grinnell who was a friend of Teddy Roosevelt and eventually founded the Audubon Society first wrote about the dangers of lead shot and bullet fragments in 1894. Yet it was not until 1991that lead shot was banned for waterfowl hunting.
More recently the state of California banned the use of lead rifle bullets for large game hunting mainly over concerns that lead bullet fragments were being consumed by California condors eating carcasses of wounded deer or scavenging offal piles left from field dressed deer. Examinations of dead or ill condors in the restoration programs in California and Arizona indicated that these small pieces of lead were a serious health risk to these birds and were, in fact, the leading cause of mortality for California condors in the wild.
This situation precipitated the obvious question: What are the impacts to other birds of prey and mammals who similarly feed on these carcasses or offal piles? The answer to that question varies but research indicates that birds such as bald and golden eagles (see x-ray of bald eagle showing ingested lead fragments above at right) are frequently brought to rehabilitation centers across the country because they have ingested lead. Moreover, these incidents are significantly more common in the fall and early winter when deer and other ungulates are wounded and not retrieved or when these animals are field dressed. How this affects crows, foxes and other scavengers has not been examined, but is of great concern.
As this problem with lead poisoning of vulnerable raptors like bald and golden eagles is well documented, strongly associated lead bullets used for big game hunting and there are several viable lead alternatives including copper bullets, Cascadia Wildlands strongly supports similar legislation regulating lead bullets in Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Idaho.
Recent posts on this topic: