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In new book, hunters and wildlife researchers claim non-toxic ammunition

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The use of lead bullets by hunters and their toxic effects on scavenger species such as eagles, which sometimes ingest debris at slaughterhouses, continues to generate headlines and bulletins from conservation groups.

But the evidence for nationwide collective action to outright ban lead bullets (and fishing tackle) in favor of safer substances like copper is lacking.

California has become an example of wider action after it banned the use of lead bullets in California condor habitat in 2008. A hunter with a rifle. As little as 1 gram of lead can be lethal to birds of prey. The state went further in 2019, enacting a complete lead ban on all hunting.

In Minnesota, in 2021, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will make its most significant move yet against lead, targeting scientific nature reserves (SNA) and hunting in certain state parks that allow special hunting. prohibited the use of lead. The order began this fall in response to petitions from the Friends of the Minnesota Science and Nature Reserve and other conservation groups. Petitioners wanted the DNR to demand non-toxic shots, slugs and fishing gear within SNA and state parks that offer fishing and hunting. and rejected the petition, but still acted to reduce lead dispersal in the wild. He added that control of lead bullets is a matter for parliament.

Mike McTee’s job is to understand the ballistics of bullets and how bullet fragments contribute to lead contamination of wildlife species, particularly golden eagles. McTee is an Environmental Chemistry-educated researcher at MPG Ranch, a conservation organization in Missoula, Mont. McTee is also a lifelong hunter. He grew up as a traditional shooter before picking up a rifle when he moved from western Washington to Montana for college. His interest has recently turned to tracking bighorn sheep.

“I love being outside,” he said.

MPG’s commitment to cross-species avian ecology includes partnerships with raptor rehabilitation groups, whose patients include golden eagles sickened by lead. McTee has written a new book, Wilted Wings: A Hunter’s Fight for Eagles, out September 6th. The book reflects his enlightenment on the scourge of lead that appears in wildlife food sources and what more hunters need to resort to. A non-toxic alternative.

In the interview below, McTee denied the benefits of a federal ban despite the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ban on lead bullets for hunting waterfowl. McTee says a more realistic approach might be the best way to keep wildlife stories local and relevant. Excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.

What are your thoughts on Minnesota’s DNR position?

If you magically flip a switch and the federal government bans lead ammunition for hunting, I doubt there will be enough copper ammunition in stock to meet demand. I don’t think it will work, so many hunters won’t follow because they would rather not go hunting than follow. This means less protection funds will be generated through Robertson. [Act]And for game wardens, when you have a copper bullet and a lead bullet, each with a polymer tip, you can’t really tell which is which easily. The Berger VLD has copper gold-plated metal on the outside, hollow point, and no lead in sight. So how do you enforce that?

Therefore, it usually requires buy-in by the hunting community, which many are not happy with.

In an independent study, DNR performed ballistic analysis using euthanized sheep. The agency seemed to be approaching it from a human perspective rather than leading venison. Impact on wildlife.

I think the evidence for lead poisoning in wildlife is overwhelming. Looking at human exposure to game meat, it’s not all that compelling.There are studies that say there’s a higher chance, but you’re also exposed [to lead] Especially by shooting firearms indoors. Primer may contain lead. A focus on lead in game meat would probably make it easier to sell to hunters, but it’s not scientifically convincing.

For MPG’s Bitterroot Valley Winter Eagle project, landowners were shown a game camera that focused on carcasses and the use of carcasses by carnivores. It has made way for you to involve hunters. They found 19 species of scavengers, from mountain lions to wolves to eagles. Is this approach a possible model for educating hunters?

absolutely. We thought we’d take a step away from lead poisoning and get hunters in western Montana excited about scavengers. Every hunter I spoke to was absolutely thrilled with what they saw It just added another layer to the Hunter’s connection to the landscape. If you’re scanning the forest floor from a tree stand, chances are you won’t see an eagle. But if you leave your food sources there, you can see what’s in your favorite forest. The idea was to get people excited about scavengers.If you appreciate scavengers, you’ll understand why lead-free is so important.

Do you think those who oppose the discussion of non-lead bullets think there is an anti-hunting movement behind it? Will it persist?

I think it’s very variable and depends on geography. On the West Coast, there may be more to it than “this comes from anti-hunting sentiment.” What I saw in Montana was none of that. I did, but less than 10 people went wild.

How do you get manufacturers on board to produce more copper ammunition? Is that possible given the challenges of ammunition supply and the perception that copper is less effective?

The point of impact when changing ammunition can change depending on whether lead is copper or lead is lead. I need to know if that bullet expands at a certain distance. But I think all these considerations that hunters have to take into account when shooting copper are relevant when shooting bullets containing lead. is a good thing.

You wrote that focusing on population impact at the local level might be a way to reach people. Yet some of the ammunition industry and the National Rifle Association say there is no evidence that lead bullets affect wildlife “population levels”? Plus, The eagle population is healthy.

It shows how complex the problem is and how it can be solved if you think both sides can support it. Since I wrote this book, there have been two of his studies showing that bald eagle populations thrive in the absence of lead poisoning. Populations are declining due to exposure to lead.

Tell the story of the 29 golden eagles you caught [and tagged] At MPG Ranch, some of them fly to the Arctic and Yukon, hang out in Montana, and then cruise back in the winter. Meaning of scale. Are you killing birds that can nest in the Arctic? It captures my imagination and that of other hunters. It feels compelling and fosters compassion for wildlife.