Lead Ammunition Overview


Teton Raptor Center promotes the use of non-lead ammunition and fishing tackle in Wyoming through education and outreach.


Wildlife and Lead

Currently, lead bullets are the most popular ammunition used during hunting season. Lead bullets are designed to fragment into over a hundred pieces upon impact, distributing damage over a vast area and killing swiftly. Many of these fragments are too small to see, feel, or taste. When hunters leave behind gut piles in the field, lead fragments are also left behind, which scavengers easily pick up when taking advantage of a free meal. Lead toxicity is a prevalent problem among patients who are admitted to Teton Raptor Center's rehabilitation clinic. Many scavenging raptor species are affected by lead, including eagles, owls, hawks, falcons, and vultures. Each year, TRC admits on average 15 patients per year with detectable levels of lead in their blood. Scientific studies have identified lead toxicity found in California condors stems from lead bullet fragments (cite). Other studies have shown eagle's blood lead levels becoming elevated during the hunting season, and falling outside of this season (cite). Lead is a known neurotoxin for both humans and wildlife, affecting coordination, balance, and movement.


Here's how it works

  1. Prey is shot with a lead-based bullet.
  2. The lead bullet fragments into hundreds of tiny pieces.
  3. Lead pieces are unknowingly left behind in gut piles.
  4. Scavengers take advantage of a free meal.
  5. Scavengers ingest lead.

Check out USGS' Lead Fact Sheet.

Current TRC Lead Research

Once Admitted...

Raptors poisoned by lead exhibit neurological symptoms, such as loss of coordination and inability to stand. Lack of coordination increases the chances of collisions, leading lead-poisoned patients to be admitted with other injuries as well, such as head trauma or broken bones. On admission, Teton Raptor Center provides supportive care, including oxygen, fluids, and antibiotics. Force-feeding is often required because lead can make raptors anorexic. We treat with CaEDTA, a chelating agent, twice a day for five days on, two days off, then on for five more days. It's common for eagles to die during treatment due to complications.

Both bald and golden eagles are tested for blood lead levels on admit, regardless of symptoms.
In 2017, eleven patients were diagnosed with lead toxicosis. Of those, four patients were deemed strong enough for chelation treatment. Only one survived.

Check out this patient's successful recover from lead toxicosis!


The Facts about Copper Ammunition

  • Originally developed as the premium bullet for big-game hunting in Africa.
  • Extremely effective.
  • Consistent, rapid expansion while remaining intact, resulting in pinpointed damage.
  • Just as accurate as lead bullets.
  • Avoid human health concerns.
  • No unintentional poisoning of wildlife.


Why Switch to Non-Lead Ammunition

  • Demonstrate ethical hunting.
  • Be a steward for wildlife conservation.
  • Protect your family from unintended lead exposure.
  • Just as effective as lead bullets.


What YOU Can Do

  • Hunt with non-lead ammunition, such as copper bullets.
  • Encourage stores and distributors to carry non-lead ammunition.
  • Educate family and friends about lead effects on wildlife.
  • Donate directly to TRC's non-lead ammunition program.


For more information, visit http://www.huntingwithnonlead.org/

How lead vs non-lead act once entering a prey item.<br>

How lead vs non-lead act once entering a prey item.

An x-ray of lead vs non-lead bullets passing through a ballistic gel.<br>

An x-ray of lead vs non-lead bullets passing through a ballistic gel.

A recovered lead bullet after being shot in a prey item. <br>

A recovered lead bullet after being shot in a prey item.

FAQs


Can we pass a law banning lead bullets?

Teton Raptor Center is aiming to reduce toxic lead fragments exposed to wildlife through education and outreach to active hunters. There is no need for legislation, but rather getting education out there for hunters to make their own ethical decisions.


Are you sure eagles are being poisoned by lead from bullets, and not another source?

There are numerous scientific studies on the case, and the widespread consensus among all is that lead bullets are the cause. (cite)


Will non-lead bullets wear out my barrel faster than lead bullets?

No. Today's non-lead bullets affect barrels in the same way lead bullets do. As with any bullet, proper firearm and maintenance is essential.


A carcass surrounded by multiple scavengers, including a young bald eagle, common ravens, black-billed magpies, and a coyote. Photo by Steve Poole.<br>

A carcass surrounded by multiple scavengers, including a young bald eagle, common ravens, black-billed magpies, and a coyote. Photo by Steve Poole.

Teton Raptor Center Staff and Board recieves some gun education at Jackson Hole Shooting Experience.<br>

Teton Raptor Center Staff and Board recieves some gun education at Jackson Hole Shooting Experience.


Aren't non-lead bullets more expensive than lead bullets?

The cost of non-lead ammunition is similar to premium-grade lead ammunition.


Are other birds/mammals affected by left over lead ammunition?

Any scavenging animal willing to take advantage of a free meal poses the risk of ingesting lead in a dangerous amount. Bears, coyotes, foxes, and other mammals have been found with elevated lead levels- however, lead
has a stronger, more dangerous affect in wild birds. Our rehabilitation clinic has seen poisoned bald and golden eagles, but also Swainson's hawks, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, prairie falcons, peregrine falcons, and turkey vultures.


What risk does lead ammunition pose to my family who eats game harvested meat?

Likely, small amounts of lead ingestion pose little risk to adult human health, though lead is widely known to be toxic to humans in many other avenues. Consume at your own risk. There is no known safe amount of lead that pregnant women and children can be exposed to.

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