boone and crockett club position statementLEAD IN AMMUNITION FOR HUNTING AND SHOOTING
Effective Date: June 12, 2017
Lead is a toxic substance that can create health issues in wildlife and people when ingested or inhaled. The use of lead-based hunting ammunition has become the subject of much debate, focusing on the existence, extent, and types of poisoning risk and how to best address them.
The primary wildlife species of concern are birds: migratory waterfowl that ingest spent lead shot while feeding and avian scavengers such as condors that eat remains of dead game animals that were killed with lead ammunition (typically gut piles not removed from the field by hunters). These bird species are especially vulnerable to lead because of the way they feed, the structure of their digestive tracts (i.e., the grinding action of their gizzards), and their far-ranging mobility. Federal regulations to restrict waterfowl hunting to lead-free shot were first introduced in the 1980’s in the United States, and were mirrored in Canada.
The controversy over wildlife poisoning from lead ammunition has also centered around the critically endangered California condor due to their low population numbers (less than 420 globally) and a number of scientific studies providing evidence that spent lead ammunition is a source of lead exposure for this scavenger. Initially, California implemented a ban on the use of lead ammunition in areas where condors nest and feed, which was limited to parts of the central and southern mountains. Later, California enacted a statewide ban, which has been criticized as overly broad and scientifically unwarranted. In other states where condors exist, such as Arizona, public education and voluntary programs have proven to be as effective as restrictive regulations.
There is also concern about human exposure to lead as a result of eating game taken with lead ammunition. Although visible lead fragments can be removed during the cleaning process, extremely small fragments can still be ingested because they are difficult to detect. Some studies have shown an association between human blood lead levels and a consistent diet of eating game meat harvested with lead ammunition, but these elevated levels are below the levels of concern identified by the Center for Disease Control for adults. To date, there is no conclusive evidence of serious illness or death of humans caused by eating game taken with lead ammunition.
The Boone and Crockett Club supports the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which specifically recognizes science as the basis for informed management and decision-making processes. The Club urges agencies and organizations to promote scientific research about the effects of lead ammunition on both wildlife and human health, and support needed policies and management actions based on sound, peer-reviewed science.
While the Club supports current federal regulations pertaining to the use of lead shot for all waterfowl regardless of location, it maintains that state wildlife agencies (not federal/state legislators or voters) are in the best position to determine if another species within their state is at risk and if this situation warrants restrictions on the use of lead ammunition. For this reason, the Club believes that if an individual state wildlife agency decides that lead exposure represents a conservation issue for a particular species in a given area, it should be up to that agency to implement targeted solutions that do not unnecessarily restrict hunting or shooting opportunities, including hunter education, voluntary programs, or mandatory programs using suitable ammunition alternatives.
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