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Get the lead out
Hunters can make a difference

Folks at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo and throughout the nation are reminding deer hunters to keep in mind that lead ammunition is toxic.

A public service announcement from the National Eagle Center notes that avian predators and scavengers (such as eagles) rely on carrion to survive, and consume toxic fragments of spent ammo in gut piles left in the woods. Hunters can make a difference by switching to non-lead ammunition and by burying or removing gut piles.

The National Eagle Center notes that we’ve removed lead from household paints and gasoline due to detrimental development and neurological effects, but it remains a common substance for hunters’ ammunition.

At the Great Bend Zoological Society’s annual meeting in October, Brit Spaugh Zoo Curator and Supervisor Sara Hamlin reported that the zoo has rehabilitated 74 birds so far this year (as of Oct. 13), up from 50 or so last year.

“Our success rate is about 30 percent (which is down from 45-50 percent), with 22 successful releases. One bird treated was a Bald Eagle which had lead poisoning. In fact, most birds have lead poisoning, which led to the purchase of a lead testing machine for about $3,000, paid for by the Zoo Society. This machine yields instant results, which will speed up diagnosis and treatment, helping to save many more birds,” Hamlin said.

Last year, shortly after Ryan Zinke became the U.S. Interior Secretary, he undid a director’s order to phase out the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle over the next five years on more than 150 million acres of National Wildlife Refuges and other agency lands and waterways. This prompted Kitty Block from the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International to write, “Hunters and anglers deposit tens of thousands of tons of lead in our environment, and it is estimated that between 10 and 20 million birds and other animals — including more than 130 species — die each year from lead poisoning. That’s a staggering toll, and an entirely preventable one, given our ability to manufacture better ammunition.”

In Kansas, non-toxic shot is required for hunting of all migratory game birds except dove and woodcock. At least 17 state wildlife areas and refuges require non-toxic shotgun load for all shotgun hunting.

Legal or not, hunters don’t have to use toxic ammunition. Kudos to those who have chosen to get the lead out.