Teton Raptor Center promotes the use of non-lead ammunition and fishing tackle in Wyoming through education and outreach.
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.
- Prey is shot with a lead-based bullet.
- The lead bullet fragments into hundreds of tiny pieces.
- Lead pieces are unknowingly left behind in gut piles.
- Scavengers take advantage of a free meal.
- Scavengers ingest lead.
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.
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.
There are numerous scientific studies on the case, and the widespread consensus among all is that lead bullets are the cause. (cite)
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.
The cost of non-lead ammunition is similar to premium-grade 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.
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.