CONSERVING WILDLIFE BY GOING GREEN: USING NON-TOXIC ALTERNATIVES FOR OUTDOOR SPORTING GOODS
Gail Buhl, The Raptor Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota
Luis Cruz-Martinez, DVM, The Raptor Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota
Amanda Baribeau, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Get the Lead Out! Coordinator
Lead as a toxic material
Lead is toxic and its toxic effects have been reported for over two thousand years in both humans and animals. Unlike other natural elements, lead is not required by any living organism and therefore has the potential of causing a wide variety of health problems mostly seen after a lead item has been ingested. As a result, many uses of lead have been banned or have been heavily restricted such as with many paints, gasoline and solders. However, despite current regulations on some lead products, this metal is still widely used for recreational sporting goods items such as fishing gear and ammunition for shooting and hunting.
Spent lead as a problem for wildlife
Fishing and hunting with lead-based items represent a large means in which lead is still being deposited in the environment. Extensive scientific research has demonstrated lead poisoning in a wide range of avian species after the ingestion of lead-based fishing gear (sinkers and jigs) and lead-based ammunition (shot and rifle bullet fragments).
Clear examples are represented by waterfowl and birds of prey. Waterfowl species ingest grit and pebbles to assist digestion of food. Lead sinkers and jigs lost in wetlands are often confused with grit. In the United States 22 species of birds have been reported to ingest lead sinkers including common loons, swans, brown pelicans and geese among others.
Birds of prey or raptors become poisoned after ingesting lead based ammunition present in tissues of prey items. The finding of lead shot as a source of poisoning to bald eagles and waterfowl led to a nationwide ban of lead shot for waterfowl hunting in 1991. However, The Raptor Center's most current research shows that lead fragments present in the tissues of game animals shot with rifle bullets is another source of lead poisoning to these birds. Scientific research on other raptors around the world such as Germany, Japan and Spain support The Raptor Center's findings.
Alternatives to lead
Currently non-toxic fishing gear are manufactured from other metals and metal alloys such as tungsten, steel, bismuth and tin. In addition, metals such as steel, solid copper and copper alloys represent examples of non-toxic (non-lead) ammunition. These alternatives have proven to be adequate for quality outdoor recreation and these can be found in most sporting goods retailers. Using non-lead alternatives for outdoor recreation is a great way of going green while enjoying and preserving wildlife and the environment.
For further information please refer to the following websites: