Thursday, December 9, 2010
Choosing Conservation Over Coin
Hunting Season--two words that invoke a myriad of emotions among the masses.
Traditional lead ammunition
We have at least three avid hunters on our staff, and the seasons are all the talk. One topic of discussion that I take a special interest in is ammunition choice. In this line of work, you can bet that more concern is placed on conservation than coin. Instead of thinking merely about the cheapest bang for their buck, our staff hunters are thinking about the long-term effects of those choices. It is a topic that brings much controversy among hunters. Of course I am talking about lead-free ammunition and fishing tackle. Now, I am not a hunter thus far, but I do love to fish.
Lead slug removed from a deer carcass
Working with the staff here and in an environmentally conscious field, I have become much more aware of lead and its effects on wildlife, the environment, humans, and of the alternatives that are out there. I would like to offer some facts worth considering when deciding on your ammunition of choice.
Photo of a bird gizzard containing grit and lead shot fragments. Photo reprinted by permission of the US Geological Survey/Department of the Interior
Lead is extremely toxic. Millions of birds and other animals die unintentionally and needlessly each year after ingesting lead. Birds of prey, waterfowl, and game birds are known to ingest lead fragments via many sources: gut piles or carcasses from scavenging; consumption of other birds that have ingested lead, such as mourning doves; plant material; by mistaking lead for grit; ingestion of lost fishing weights by birds who sift the lake and rivers bottoms in search of crustaceans; or from fish that have ingested lead sinkers or lures.
Yes, lead-free bullets do cost a little more – about 10-20% more for most guns. As demand for lead-free ammunition alternatives increase, so will production, resulting in a decrease in cost to the consumer. Steel-shot is a great alternative and, in fact, a must for water fowlers. Solid copper slugs and bullets work well and continue to gain in popularity among deer hunters. Steel and brass weights are good lead-free alternatives for fishing. They are less dense, but available in many sizes, and they can add an eye catching flash to a Texas-rigged plastic worm.
One of the newer copper slugs
Some of the lead poisoning in wildlife, and lead exposure in the environment, has come about due to sportsmen – and can be rectified for the most part by sportsmen. There are several organizations that have been founded and operated by sportsmen that have recognized the need for change. They have taken it upon themselves to take a leadership role in conservation efforts. They believe in good stewardship, habitat restoration, preservation and conservation. To them, I tip my hat. It is up to us as responsible hunters and anglers, to educate ourselves and others regarding ammunition and tackle choices, to make necessary changes, and to limit the negative impact that occurs on wildlife populations and the environment.
Ammunition and tackle selection is a matter of personal choice. While it costs a little more, I choose lead-free alternatives when I buy my fishing tackle. I would like to ask that you, too, consider conservation over coin. If we want to preserve the nature that we so enjoy, be it hunting, fishing, bird watching, or hiking, it just makes sense to do what we can to think of the future of our wildlife, our planet, our own backyard, our own dinner table and of the generations to come.
Submitted by Billie Baumann, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator