Lead poisoning is being shown to have an effect on wildlife from California condors to bald eagles to grizzly bears and even whole environments like wetland preserves. The source of the poisoning comes from lead bullets either lodged in an animal who survived the wound, consumed by a predator or scavenger feasting on a bullet-wounded animal, or as ammunition that missed its target and contaminates the soil or surrounding ecology.
The Center for Biological Diversity reports that three endangered condors died of lead poisoning, suspected of having foraged in Utah before reaching and dying in northern Arizona. Four bald eagles died this winter of lead poisoning in Alberta, Canada; one of the eagles having as much as 9 times the fatal level of lead. And in Yellowstone, a recent study showed grizzly bears had elevated lead levels during hunting season, due to feeding on wounded elk. And loose lead shot has been shown to contaminate soil and even work its way down into protected wetlands
While lead-free ammunition is required in some select areas in some states, it is not nationwide for all environments. And while a total ban on all sport hunting is probably not realistic, there is some movement to extend the range of non-lead regulations. Earlier this week, California Assemblymember Pedro Nava introduced legislation to outlaw toxic lead shot from all of California's 627,000 acres of designated state wildlife areas. That's a step forward.
"We need to get lead out of wildlife areas," said Nava. "It makes no sense to allow people to leave poisonous material in our state parks."
The Center for Biological Diversity is conducting a "Get the Lead Out" U.S. campaign. Click here to learn more.
Read Los Angeles Times article on poisoned condors.
Read Calgary Herald article on poisoned bald eagles.