From the February 27 Edition of the Pueblo Chieftain,
I find it unusual that Patrick Martinez, a former biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, would state in his Feb. 12 opinion piece opposing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' rule requiring nonlead ammunition and fishing tackle on public lands that there's no scientific evidence supporting the widespread need for this rule. It's unusual because a cursory google search revealed 59,000 articles on the subject of lead poisoning, not only in condors as Martinez says, but also lead poisoning in bald and golden eagles, hawks, magpies, doves, ravens, turkey vultures, waterfowl, swans, loons. These birds eat "gut piles" intestinal remains of deer/elk/pronghorn filled with lead fragments that hunters leave behind after field dressing their kill, and/or they ingest lost fishing sinkers, and consume wounded or dead prey.
In 2015, the USFWS staff collected 168 dead bald eagles found in a refuge that stretches across Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The eagles were victims of lead poisoning. The Rocky Mountain Raptor Program and the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo admit eagles and hawks suffering from lead poisoning on a regular basis.
Lead's effects on people are wellknown. Colorado Parks and Wildlife's own hunting brochure states, "Humans face a potential risk of exposure to lead associated with eating wild game killed with lead bullets." (CPW "Get the Lead Out"/Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment 2008).
Huntingwithnonlead.org lists numerous studies about the efficacy of nonlead ammunition for hunting, protecting wildlife and human health. Big manufacturers like Remington, Nosler, Winchester and Barnes all make solid copper bullets. As hunters increasingly use nonlead, prices inevitably will go down. When Arkansas Valley Audubon Society gave away vouchers for free boxes of solid copper rifle bullets, 50 hunters participated. Not one of them had a negative word to say. One hunter said, "It only makes sense (to use nonlead). Why would I want to hurt eagles."
Anyone wanting to see the difference between the effects of lead vs. solid copper bullets can visit the nature center where ballistic gels are on display. One can clearly see the black, discolored fragments of lead throughout the lead gel vs. the clean, clear, nonfragmented path of a solid copper bullet (See Below). After seeing this, Martinez or anyone else would, I suspect, prefer to eat the meat harvested with a nonlead bullet. Obama and Flint, Mich., are not the impetus for this new rule. Instead of railing against the antihunting/antigun contingent, it might be wiser to adopt a prohealth stance. After all, true sportsmen tend to be conservationminded. What better way to conserve healthy populations of birds, other wildlife and people than keeping lead fragments out of the environment and out of our food.
Peg Rooney, RN, Ph.D., is president of the Arkansas Valley Audubon Society
Ballistic Gels shot with Copper and Lead bullets.
After this opinion piece was written and published a Bald Eagle was admitted to the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo with the symptoms of lead poisoning. The Eagle has since passed away. Lead poisoning can not be confirmed until results from the blood work come back from the lab. We will keep you updated on those results.