MISSOULA, Mont. — For generations, hunters have used lead ammunition, but a new group is trying to spread the word about lead-free ammunition to protect the environment and wildlife from lead poisoning.
Sporting Lead-Free Wyoming is a Wyoming hunting organization that wants to show the benefits of changing ammunition and equipment for local hunters. The group wants to decrease lead consumption by wildlife and humans as well as show the benefits associated with choosing ammunition and equipment that aren’t harmful to the environment.
“The more I interact with the animals in their habitat and appreciate the opportunity, the more I care about the animals,” said Kai Whitehill, a hunter who uses unleaded ammunition. “The more I understand the animals, the more I want to protect the habitat, and the more willing I am to give my time, energy and resources to make sure that habitat is always there. After the killing, any lead left behind will be eaten by other animals.
Sporting Lead-Free demonstrated that lead ammunition can fragment into hundreds of pieces if it hits a target. This could lead to lead in meat.
It also leads to lead poisoning in scavenging bird by causing them to eat gut piles.
The American Bird Conservancy estimates that between 10 and 20 million birds, among other animals, die each year from lead poisoning.
Hannah Leonard from Sporting Lead-Free said, “People don’t realize that when that bullet hits that animal it breaks into hundreds and pieces.” “Depending on the bullet, a fragment less, a fragment much more. These fragments can be as large as a pen tip. It takes about 160 pieces to kill an eagle, and only a tiny amount of gut stack.
Leanard makes a trip to many states to illustrate the differences between lead and copper ammunition.
Some programs offer X-rays for packaged meat, which can be used to determine the quality of game meals.
Brian Bedrosian (the group’s director, and cofounder) stated that the group had vetted approximately 1,200 packs game meat and found lead fragments within about 15% of the ground meat.
Bedrosian stated, “It is almost impossible to keep the lead fragments out from the flesh harvested animals.” “But it is very deadly to scavengers that consume gut staples. For humans, the risk of exposure to the metal is very low if it is not too high. However, it is better to have fragment-free meat for your family in general.”
According to the group, it’s a better way for outdoor enthusiasts to be trained than to push for legislation to ban lead ammunition.
“We are 100% behind a voluntary educational approach,” said Bedrosian. “We are not interested in any regulatory or legislative pathway.”