A new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control showing that people who eat wild game shot with lead bullets appear to have higher levels of lead in their blood than people who don't confirms a warning first raised by The Peregrine Fund in May, when the organization showed lead fragments were widely dispersed in deer carcasses shot with lead bullets.
For more information about the study released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the North Dakota Department of Health:
The Peregrine Fund first detected the problem when several endangered California Condors died from lead poisoning after ingesting carcasses and gut piles from hunter-killed game animals.
"When the extent of the lead problem for condors became clear, we began to wonder if people who eat venison shot with lead bullets might also be exposed to the toxic heavy metal," said Rick Watson, Vice President of The Peregrine Fund. The raptor conservation organization breeds rare California Condors at its World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise and releases them near the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona.
In recognizing the harm done to wildlife and people by lead in bullets used to hunt game, the organization felt it would have been irresponsible not to alert people to a potential danger. "We are not anti-hunting," Watson said. "Our agenda is solely to restore California Condors to the wild where they may be enjoyed by future generations."
Gut piles and other remains of game animals shot by hunters provide an important source of food for condors, Watson said. For three years, The Peregrine Fund has worked with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to encourage hunters to voluntarily use non-lead bullets in condor range. In 2007, 80 percent of hunters used non-toxic alternatives and condor deaths dropped from four in 2006 to none in 2007.
"These hunters have not only improved the survival of condors, but also reduced their exposure to a toxic substance. They are our heroes," Watson said. "We continue to encourage hunters to use solid copper bullets when they hunt with a rifle, to benefit both wildlife and their own families."
Watson said copper bullets are a viable alternative and he is optimistic that hunters will continue to choose alternatives that are not toxic to condors.
In May, The Peregrine Fund sponsored a conference of scientists, biologists and health experts at Boise State University to discuss the issue and raise awareness about its implications for human health. At the conference, The Peregrine Fund released a study showing that processed ground venison from 80 percent of the deer sampled contained metal fragments, many of them so small they could not be seen, felt or tasted. No amount of lead is considered safe, especially in pregnant women and children because even tiny amounts can cause brain development and behavioral problems in children.
For more information, contact:
Director of Global Engagement
Susan Whaley, public relations coordinator
(208) 362-8274 direct
(208) 860-2641 cell
(208) 362-3716 main