Letter to the editor: Lead ammunition is bad for Vermont’s environment
Editor’s note: The writer is a junior in Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont.
In Vermont there is always a season to hunt wildlife — there are even open seasons on some species like coyotes, but I bet you’re not thinking that bald eagles may also be at risk. Lead toxicity in bald eagles and other raptors is a prevalent problem, yet is often ignored among sportsmen and state Fish & Wildlife Departments. There are hundreds of studies on the topic, including one by the University of Minnesota Raptor Center that link lead toxicity in scavenging wildlife to lead-based ammunition used in hunting.
The primary source of lead exposure among wildlife comes from gut piles left by hunters in the field. Victims include scavenging birds like eagles and vultures who can’t egest lead from their bodies. Once the lead is ingested, it enters the bloodstream and begins to damage central organs like the lungs, kidneys, and the central nervous system. The lead fragments may cause a quick death in some birds, while others experience prolonged suffering. Compromised motor-skills leave raptors vulnerable and defenseless, ultimately causing them to succumb to the poisoning.
Efforts to ban lead ammo for hunting are often stymied by fierce opposition from gun rights activists and hunters who fear that a ban on lead ammo for hunting is a “slippery slope.” Sportsmen tout a conservationist identity, yet still use lead ammunition when presented with alternatives. To be true conservationists, these sportsmen in Vermont and elsewhere must stop politicizing the issue, research the facts, and be the leaders on this front.
Short of efforts to ban lead ammo altogether, we need state Fish & Wildlife Departments to prioritize this in their hunter education curriculum. With the multitude of threats that wildlife is now faced with, human-caused threats that are preventable are inexcusable.
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