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Lead that’s left behind threatens local wildlife

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Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014 8:45 pm | Updated: 11:40 pm, Mon Mar 17, 2014.

Two thin bald eagles brought to The Wildlife Center near Española in January died despite efforts by staff to save them.

The culprit was lead poisoning, according to blood tests and necropsies performed on both birds.

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21 comments:

  • Al Rodriguez posted at 11:06 pm on Sat, Mar 22, 2014.

    AlRodriguez Posts: 1

    Khal, the free range beef you get out here is probably full of lead because this stock pond (which is used by cows every day for months or all year) like most others are full of lead ammunition. Lead leaches into the water and the soil and gets into the grass that grows around the pond. Cows drink the water and eat the grass, getting lead into their system, and you pay a high price for free range cow meat and eat it, so you get lead in your system. Cows have died from lead poisoning after eating grass at shooting ranges. Google it. If the cow doesn't die immediately from lead poisoning, the lead is still in its system and concentrated in the meat that you eat.

     
  • Pierce Knolls posted at 9:35 am on Wed, Mar 19, 2014.

    Mister Pierce Posts: 1670

    Interesting. I wonder if anyone has studied the rate of lead in the blood of folks who are grocery store carnivores as compared to the blood lead levels of folks who hunt for a significant portion of their meat?

    One of my concerns about the difference between environmental shotgun shell lead contamination and that from rifle hunters is volume. When one rifle hunts for, say, deer in New Mexico, one is limited to one deer at which one is likely to shoot only one or maybe two bullets. If one actually bags a deer, most of that carcass is going to be hauled out of the wild butchered for human consumption, leaving only a gut pile behind for scavengers. Compare that to shotgun hunting for, say, quail, where the season is months long and a hunter is only limited to (I think) ten birds a day. In one day of quail hunting a hunter might fire twenty or thirty shells, and most of those shot pellets will miss birds entirely and just end up scattered across the landscape. I just don't think one or two rifle bullets can compare to the volume of lead released into the environment by tens, or even hundreds of shotgun shells.

     
  • Khal Spencer posted at 6:29 am on Wed, Mar 19, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 418

    Thanks for the comments, Phillip. Good rebuttal to the New Mexican's editorial.

    I'm a little surprised that Ms. Matlock begs the question so badly "...the culprit was lead poisoning....lead ammunition is a deadly problem..."

    Would have been nice to see some actual documentation.

     
  • Khal Spencer posted at 11:25 am on Tue, Mar 18, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 418

    Here is that N. Dakota study. Nothing that would send me fleeing from the woods. The results are equivocal, with no major elevations. Good read.

    http://www.ndhealth.gov/lead/venison/

    Frankly, I wonder if traditional commercial meat (not the free range stuff you can get out here), with all the pesticides and antibiotics in them, are worse for meat eaters.


     
  • Khal Spencer posted at 11:16 am on Tue, Mar 18, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 418

    I Googled "game bullet fragmentation" and came up with a lot of its. Most from various state and Federal agencies, but one that is in Outdoor Life, which even the most avid hunter probably doesn't think is poisoned by anti-gun politics.

    http://tinyurl.com/pb8tdpd

    "...The first study, conducted on a hunch by Dr. William Cornatzer, a dermatologist from Bismarck, North Dakota revealed that nearly 60 of the 100 one-pound packages of ground, frozen venison tested contained enough lead fragments to be detected with a high-definition CT scan. ..."

    I think we are on to something here. I don't doubt that folks adverse to guns and hunting will make hay on this while the sun shines, which is why I think it is up to us to fix the problem before someone else fixes it for us.

     
  • Phillip Loughlin posted at 9:46 am on Tue, Mar 18, 2014.

    Phillip Loughlin Posts: 1

    All things considered, this is one of the more "reasoned" discussions I've seen on this topic... and I've been involved in a bunch. The article gets a little bit right and a little bit wrong.

    It's pretty clear that lead bullets and shot in the environment are dangerous to scavenging birds. There's no hard evidence (the isotope studies have been challenged seven ways to Sunday), but any reasonable person who is paying attention has to agree that the research is compelling. The real question before we jump into the realm of regulation, is whether the harm to these birds represents appreciable environmental harm. Are there general declines in the population? If not, then this becomes a matter of personal ethics doesn't it?

    As far as risks to humans, that is a red herring in this discussion. As a human health issue, consumption of small portions of metallic lead rate near the bottom of concerns... especially when you look at the other harmful substances commonly found in our food sources (mercury, selenium, steroids, e coli, etc.).

    I think it would be wonderful to see the ammo industry and my fellow hunters take more positive steps toward mitigating our impact on the environment. When it's feasible (it isn't always), phasing out lead ammo would be a good thing. But it is not the kind of problem that justifies legislation, restriction, or bans.

     
  • Khal Spencer posted at 6:46 pm on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 418

    A bureacratic nightmare worries me, too.

     
  • Khal Spencer posted at 6:46 pm on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 418

    I looked at the papers (Church et al) that were the basis for that study. The data do not contradict the assertion, but neither do they prove a unique solution.

    Kooks will always be with us.

     
  • oscar michael posted at 5:57 pm on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    oscar mike Posts: 142

    The u.s. military is the largest user of ammunition in the united states. They have planned on switching over to lead free ammunition by 2018. This is OK for them because they are not restricted from using steel-core or alternative metals in their weapons. You and I however are regulated by the BATF as to which ammunition we can load and fire. Manufactures are also regulated by what they can produce and sell to the public. Solid copper ammo is available at premium prices, but this metal can over penetrate through a soft target. How long after banning lead bullets would it take for the enviro-whackos to claim that wildlife is dying off from toxic copper poisoning?

     
  • oscar michael posted at 5:34 pm on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    oscar mike Posts: 142

    Little to do with this effort? The same kooks petitioned the EPA to ban lead ammo in 2010 and again in 2012. They claim 20 million birds die each year from lead poisoning, including bald eagles and condors. the same exact story was told to us back then. California restricted the use of lead ammunition in southern and central parts of the state in 2007. They still claim that the lead is killing wildlife. In fact national geographic claimed in 2006 that the lead found in dead condors was a "close" match to lead ammo bought in local stores.
    Yes lead is toxic, but this story would have you believe that hunters just randomly pump rounds into innocent animals and leave them to rot where birds of prey and fish feast on the lead filled carcases. The goal is gun control, not saving the planet.

     
  • Khal Spencer posted at 4:07 pm on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 418

    The anti-gun crowd has little to do with this effort, although that crowd would undoubtedly applaud any efforts by hunters to seem intransigent. Its not helpful to deflect criticism of a real problem by trotting out the old bogeymen of gun prohibitionists. I think a better solution is to work with the biologists, geologists (interestingly, some of the papers I found today have geochemists on the author list, since we have been studying lead in the environment for decades) and ammunition makers to put some constraints on the problem and collect more good data useful to the regulatory community, rather than letting this fester. Just my $0.02.

     
  • oscar michael posted at 3:32 pm on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    oscar mike Posts: 142

    You are correct again sir! For the anti-gun crowd there is no difference whatsoever between shot and lead base projectiles fired from rifled barrels. Its all acute lead poisoning in their eyes. The goal is not to save the furry animals from lead toxicity, but to remove firearms from use all together. If they address this as an environmental issue, they get all the tree huggers and eco-activists worked up for their cause.

     
  • oscar michael posted at 3:02 pm on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    oscar mike Posts: 142

    This is an old story brought back by the anti-gun crowd. The hope is to link firearms with health issues so that regulations can be enacted to alleviate the non- existent problem. This is the reasoning with connecting mental health problems with firearms ownership. If they can successfully link firearms use with any health condition or environmental detriment it will be very easy to regulate such activity as a public health concern.
    This story is full of assumptions. For instance " it is particularly popular with people who shoot coyotes". I don't know any coyote hunter who chooses to use a shotgun as their primary weapon. Not saying it isn't done, but anyone who has hunted a coyote knows it is very hard to lure them into shotgun range.

     
  • Pierce Knolls posted at 2:22 pm on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    Mister Pierce Posts: 1670

    Speaking only of my own personal experiences, I've bitten down on plenty of shot when eating dove and quail, but I've never had a bite of deer, elk, or other large game that contained a chunk or fragment of a bullet. Maybe that's because even though they expand quite a bit, most modern hunting bullets usually stay intact and pass entirely through the target animal? I think that maybe if scavengers are ingesting lead from carcasses, those must be the carcasses of varmints (coyotes, prairie dogs, etc.) that someone is shooting with a shotgun? I guess I'm mostly just concerned that it's a knee-jerk reaction to ban all lead shot AND bullets from all hunting, when maybe lead shot is the only real problem?

    Bald eagles eat a lot of fish. I'd bet that lead fishing weights are the more likely culprit in the deaths of the two eagle featured in this story than any lead bullet.

     
  • Khal Spencer posted at 2:07 pm on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 418

    Found one ref. Lead released in the U.S. from gasoline was about 1.5e8 kg/yr in the 1970's to about 3e7 kg/yr in the mid eighties. Precipitous drop circa 1980.

    TRENDS IN LEAD CONCENTRATIONS IN MAJOR U.S. RIVERS AND THEIR
    RELATION TO HISTORICAL CHANGES IN GASOLINE-LEAD CONSUMPTION'
    Richard B. Alexander and Richard A. Smith

    WATER RESOURCES BULLETIN
    VOL. 24, NO. 3 AMERICAN WATER RESOURCES ASSOCIATION JUNE 1988

     
  • Khal Spencer posted at 1:26 pm on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 418

    I'm a little surprised the comment from the huntfortruth.org guy was deleted. It was not rude, abusive, or profane. Frankly, it was no more leading or misleading than a lot of the stuff I see here. Strange.

    Pierce is right about not all lead ammo being equal. Shot is directly ingested by wildfowl. But soft nose or hollowpoint bullets fragment on entering game, so these too can be sprayed into the meat.

    As I said before, its a good idea to leave open the possibility of lead bullets being legal for range, indoor range, or home defense use, where its effect on wildlife is effectively nil. The lead poisoning meted out to a home invader is a little more quick acting, too.

     
  • Pierce Knolls posted at 1:10 pm on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    Mister Pierce Posts: 1670

    I've noticed that opponents of lead ammunition have begun to commonly confuse "pellets" and "shot" with "bullets." Lead pellets, or shot, from shotguns are an environmental hazard in wetlands or anywhere waterfowl are hunted because the bottoms of lakes, rivers, ponds, and marshes can become littered with the spent pellets, and bottom feeding waterfowl often directly ingest those lead pellets. That's why bans on the use of lead shotgun ammunition for waterfowl hunting and in wetlands in general have become common. But shotgun ammunition is very different in a variety of ways from the bullets fired from rifles and pistols, and any discussion of banning lead pistol/rifle bullets should be separate from discussions about lead shotgun pellets.

     
  • Pierce Knolls posted at 12:56 pm on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    Mister Pierce Posts: 1670

    I'd be curious to know how many tons of lead were pumped into the environment each year as a result of leaded gasoline, and how that compare to how much lead enters the environment annually as a result of the use of firearms. I'd also be curious to know how many raptors and carrion eating birds actually die each year from lead ingestion, and how that compares to the numbers of those birds killed each year by electric wind generation?

    This lead bullet worry reminds me of the DDT ban. Banning DDT has caused a resurgence of malaria in the equatorial third-world, and the science showing that DDT was harmful to bird populations has since been debunked.

     
  • Khal Spencer posted at 12:50 pm on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 418

    One doesn't need to bring up the spectre of anti-hunting groups to muddy the water. Having said that, this article assumes, but does not prove, those eagles died of lead from bullets or shot. I'd like to see the data.

    Many of the peer-reviewed studies in the huntfortruth site indeed show alternative pathways for lead to be ingested into animals, such as contaminated soils or proximity to smelters. That in itself doesn't mean that lead bullets are not a problem, but merely that lead contamination in the environment itself is an additional problem. Its no secret that lead is a toxin, and no secret that there are alternatives. For the record, I am not anti-hunting and have cooked many a venison meal during my life.

    This is a recent paper.

    "Lead Poisoning and the Deceptive Recovery of the California Condor", M.E. Finkelstein, et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 109, o. 28, pp 11449-11454, 2012.

    From the abstract:

    "...Our results show that condors in California remain chronically exposed to harmful levels of lead; 30% of the annual blood samples collected from condors indicate lead exposure (blood lead ≥ 200 ng/mL) that causes significant subclinical health effects, measured as >60% inhibition of the heme biosynthetic enzyme δ-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase. Furthermore, each year, ∼20% of free-flying birds have blood lead levels (≥450 ng/mL) that indicate the need for clinical intervention to avert morbidity and mortality. Lead isotopic analysis shows that lead-based ammunition is the principle source of lead poisoning in condors..."

     
  • Khal Spencer posted at 10:36 am on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 418

    NSSF (I love that comment, Mr. White, "leaddites") would do well to read the abundant literature on the effects of lead on both human and other mammal and bird life. This one is a no-brainer, as recognized by migratory waterfowl hunters and biologists. Certainly it is not a leap of faith but good science to examine the effects of lead as one goes up the food chain, or in scavengers.

    The New Mexican surprisingly forgets to mention the third huge paradigm-shift in lead pollution--the elimination of lead alkyls from gasoline, starting in I believe the 1970's. Lead aerosols and their oxidized residues were found in urban air and soils, especially around heavily trafficked corridors, during the second half of the 20th century, with deleterious effects on humans.

    To be sure, lead bullets have a place, such as indoor shooting ranges that are well ventilated with HEPA filtered air, for example. One cannot use steel or jacketed bullets in many indoor ranges as these can destroy the target backstops. But we really need to think past that one shot and towards the future viability of wildlife and their habitat.

    I hope the NRA takes the lead on developing good alternatives. Lead is cheap and easy, but as we know, things can be cheap and easy on the short term and devastating on the long term.

     
  • Paul White posted at 6:54 am on Mon, Mar 17, 2014.

    Pabloblanco Posts: 45

    The National Shooting Sports Foundation might be called "Leadites"...

     

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