Bans on Lead Bullets Found to Protect Birds and Hunters, Too
Lead from hunter's bullets has been shown to present a poisoning threat to California condors and bald eagles. Now, new research indicates that turkey vultures—and other scavenging birds—are vulnerable too.
Fortunately, there are ready alternatives to the lead shot and making the switch has a dramatic effect on bird populations.The problem occurs when hunters clean an animal in the field and leave the remains—including lead bullets—or a shot animal escapes and later dies. Carrion-feeding birds find these remains and, inadvertently, eat the lead bullets. Once consumed, the lead can lead to an inability to fly, starvation, anemia, blindness, seizures and death.
In 1991, in an effort to protect bald eagles, the use of lead ammunition was banned for hunting water fowl. Then, in 2008, lead ammunition was banned for most hunting activities within the range of California condors.
A study conducted through 2008 and 2009 found a significant decrease in lead exposure among golden eagles and turkey vultures.
"It just makes good sense to use non-toxic ammunition," said Christine Johnson, a UC Davis professor of veterinary medicine who led the study, "to protect wildlife as well as eliminate any potential risk to hunters and their families."