|Volunteer Ron Andrews with lead-poisoned bald eagle|
So how serious is lead poisoning? SOAR has wonderful information on their website at http://www.soarraptors.org/leadresearch.html. A few figures that struck me:
- 56% of all eagles admitted to Iowa rehabilitators between 2004 and 2008 had abnormal lead levels in their blood. This ranged from a low of 37.5% in 2004 (with 62.5% of eagles being tested) to a high of 70.0% in 2005 (with 90.0% being tested).
- The University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center in St. Paul received 117 lead-poisoned bald eagles during the winter of 2009.
- While lead poisoning can kill directly, as it did with the eagle we tried to rescue, lead toxicity is also a factor in collision deaths and injuries. According to the Raptor Center, about 85% of eagles that come in with collision injuries also have elevated lead levels. This video from the UK shows the effects of lead on a duck's coordination and motor skills: http://youtu.be/KaVr70-2mpc
Did the ban on lead shot prevent successful waterfowl hunting? No. The total number of geese and ducks harvested nationwide declined steeply beginning in about 1984, but started rising again in roughly 1992, as shown by this chart: http://flyways.us/regulations-and-harvest/harvest-trends. Requiring the use of non-toxic shot did not negatively impact waterfowl hunting, but did prevent ducks, geese, and many other animals from coming into contact with lead shot by ingesting it directly or feeding on lead-poisoned animals or carcasses containing shot.
There are alternatives to toxic shot. A few links:
- Federal Premium® Ammunition shares the history behind steel and alternative nontoxic loads. From Duck Hunters Unlimited: http://youtu.be/gOvlGWaKf9M
- Field Testing Steel Shot: http://youtu.be/5IJsdkop5Gg
- Hunting Non-Lead: A sportsmen’s website promoting non-lead hunting: http://www.huntingwithnonlead.org/index.html
- SOAR’s page on hunting lead free. SOAR has been involved in lead-free hunting for a long time: http://www.soarraptors.org/HuntLeadFree.html
If you hunt or shoot, please use non-toxic shot. It does your prey well, it does you well, and it does the environment well. We aren’t anti-hunting and we aren’t anti-gun, but handling lead-poisoned eagles has made us anti-lead shot.
- Harvest Trends: http://flyways.us/regulations-and-harvest/harvest-trends
- Bald Eagle Lead Poisoning in Winter: http://www.peregrinefund.org/subsites/conference-lead/PDF/0119%20Neumann.pdf
- Notice of Waterfowl Survey: http://www.fws.gov/pacific/news/2000/2000-177.htm
- Minnesota Eagles Fall Prey to Lead: http://www.startribune.com/local/137358413.html
- SOAR – Hunting Lead Free: http://www.soarraptors.org/HuntLeadFree.html
- SOAR – Lead Research: http://www.soarraptors.org/leadresearch.html
- MN Raptor Center: Lead Poisoning and Bald Eagles: http://www.cvm.umn.edu/raptor/MedicalServices/RaptorMedicine/LeadPoisoning/home.html
- Hunting Non-Lead: A sportsmen’s website that promotes lead-free hunting: http://www.huntingwithnonlead.org/index.html