Lead ammo and tackle cause widespread bald eagle poisoning
The resurgence of bald eagles has been heralded as one of the great conservation successes in the U.S. But a study suggests lead is stunting population growth. Nationwide, bald and golden eagles are continually exposed to the toxic heavy metal, according to research that tested more than 1,200 eagles from Alaska to Florida.
How are eagles and other birds exposed to lead?
- Scavenging birds feed on gutpiles that contain fragments of lead ammo and wounded animals that weren’t recovered by hunters. This includes some animals that we think of as scavengers and many more that we don’t – including bald eagles.
- Waterfowl eat ammunition or lead sinkers while foraging in lakes, while land birds mistake shot for seeds or grit and eat it.
- Fish-eating birds like bald eagles and loons eat fish that have eaten lead sinkers or other tackle.
What can you do?
- If you hunt and fish, switch to lead-free ammo and tackle.
- If you know someone who hunts and fishes with lead, talk to them about making the switch. It’s better for eagles, at least 63 other species of birds (including swans, geese, and loons), and everyone who eats game! If you know what they hunt or fish with, think about gifting them with an appropriate replacement.
- Connect with other people who care about the issue. In Iowa specifically, that might mean county conservation boards. ‘Friends‘ groups (Friends of Minnesota Scientific and Natural Areas, Friends of Pool Nine, Friends of The Black River, and so on) are also a wonderful way to link up with local people on local resources and issues.
- Watch for and support legislation at the state and federal level. Minnesota has two bills: one on lead tackle (HF157, SF247 – link: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=House&f=HF0157&ssn=0&y=2021) and one on lead ammo (HF2556, SF2545 – link: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=House&f=HF2556&ssn=0&y=2021). What does your state have? Go to your state’s legislative website and do some digging (No doubt about it – state legislative websites often have a learning curve. But it’s worth a look just to see the messy process of lawmaking and learn more about what’s going on in your state.)
A few resources
We know that lead ammo and lead tackle cause collateral damage. It is beyond time to switch to non-leaded alternatives. We are not anti-hunting, anti-fishing, or anti-gun – just anti-lead.