Is it time for big game and small game hunters to switch to non-toxic bullets?
If there would be a New Year’s resolution that I’d like to see all hunters make, it would be to totally switch over to non-toxic shot and bullets.
It is in the best interests of sport hunting AND of the state’s natural resources.
That switch to non-toxic shot was made mandatory in the United States in 1991 and duck and goose hunters have complied just fine.
We have no idea how many ducks and geese, along with swans and shorebirds, it has saved from dying by lead poisoning, but we know the spent non-toxic shot in the nation’s wetlands won’t be responsible for killing thousands of unintended species.
For those using rifles, the switch to non-toxic bullets can be just as easy, and with equally good results, for hunters’ families and for wildlife.
What was demonstrated during the years that the Wisconsin DNR was bold enough to sponsor shooting clinics, led by retired DNR wildlife biologist Carl Batha, is that rifle bullets break up into small fragments that get dispersed into the meat of the animal being harvested.
Similar studies in North Dakota by Dr. Bill Cornatzer showed that 59% of venison taken from food pantries and put through X-rays showed tiny lead fragments that would have been consumed by people.
For wildlife that are not the target of a hunter’s bullet, the result can also be deadly. The offal from deer left in the woods retain lead bullet fragments that will later be consumed by other mammals and raptors.
Each year wildlife rehabilitation specialists have the unenviable responsibility of trying to nurse back to health bald eagles suffering from lead poisoning from unknowingly consuming lead bullet fragments in offal left in the woods after the deer season.
Even worse is watching the death throes of a bald eagle dying from lead poisoning.
Hunters need to resolve to lead by example and make the decision to purchase no more lead. The DNR needs to renew its efforts and start by alerting hunters to the need to not use lead.