Thursday, January 29, 2015


Outfitting oneself for the field is hardly an operation lacking technical options.  Terminal tackle—hooks, sinkers, etc.—and ammunition are no exception.  In recent years, tackle and ammunitions companies like Water Gremlin and Remington have begun to introduce eco-friendly sinkers and shells made of lead alternatives, like steel and tungsten, as a response to the rise in awareness of lead-related environmental effects.

Virginia has yet to see any specific lead tackle bans.  However, other states have placed state-wide bans on the use of lead sinkers; and the country, a ban prohibiting the use of lead shot by waterfowl hunters.  Ban or no ban, the responsible outdoorsman has an obligation get a lead on lead poisoning and support a healthy environment in any way possible.

    The state of California has made very clear the ill effects associated with lead; but why is it dangerous to wildlife?  The foremost biological concern is waterfowl mortality via an illness called lead toxicosis.  Lead toxicosis occurs when the lead concentration in the liver surpasses five PPM.

    According to the University of Vermont, the common loon, an endangered species in the state and the most common victim of fatal lead toxicosis in New England, can be killed by a single dose of only .3 grams of lead—the weight of even the smallest pinch-on sinkers.  Three decades ago, prior to any national lead-regulating laws, waterfowlers blanketed America’s wetlands with 5,997,084 pounds of lead shot pellets annually, or, pretending for a moment that each of these pellets weighed .3 grams, 9 billion potential loon-killers.

    With all that lead in the water, it’s no doubt that waterfowl were suffering.  Waterfowl have no teeth; and therefore, must ingest their food whole.  After eating, a small stone is swallowed and enters the gizzard to grind up food as part of the digestion process.  This is how lead toxicosis becomes a problem for our feathery friends.  A small piece of lead shot or a small sinker look similar to stones, and are commonly ingested by birds who mistake them as such.  The consequence is usually fatal.

    Finally, in 1991, lead shot shells disappeared from the waterfowl hunting scene following a ban the EPA placed on their use.  Five years after the ban was enacted, a studyconducted in the Mississippi flyway found that the number of cases of lead toxicosis in adult mallards had decreased an estimated 64%, totaling 1.4 million ducks spared from the fatal disease.

    Finding positive results after banning lead from our wetlands, it was only natural to seek out any other ill effects lead shot could cause.  Of course, waterfowl hunters were responsible for littering marshland with shot, and ultimately for a high number of bird mortality.  But what about shot dispersed by small and big game hunters?

    On firm ground, those suffering from lead poisoning are not the hunter’s quarry; and they become poisoned by another pathway.  Game animals that are shot with shotgun shells filled with lead pellets and are never recovered lay in the field to decompose, meaning two things:  a) an easy meal for scavengers and b) tainted meat.  Scavengers in Virginia included endangered birds of prey such as the peregrine falcon and bald eagle; and endangered bird species feeding on poisoned meat equals yet another reason for concern.

    As of yet, Virginia has no law against lead shot for general hunting or fishing tackle; but there are plenty of eco-friendly options available.  Steel and bismuth are common shot alternatives; and bead heads for flies and sinkers are manufactured from tin and tungsten.  All are readily available and are affordable options for the sportsman who desires to preserve and protect the Earth we were given.  There is an old saying that goes “, We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”  Bear that in mind.

Originally published in the Rural Virginian

No comments :