Citing the need to prevent lead toxicity hazards to wildlife, the Federal Government's primary wildlife management agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildife Service (FWS) has banned the use of lead ammunition for hunting nuisance birds, according to several source, including the American Bird Conservancy.
American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation's leading bird conservation organization, expressed support for the decision in a letter sent this week to Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Rowan W. Gould.
Depredation orders are issued by FWS to allow the killing of migratory birds such as crows, grackles, and blackbirds which are causing damage to public or private property, pose a health or safety hazard, or are damaging agricultural crops or wildlife. This new regulation will require the use of non-toxic ammunition in the control of these nuisance birds.
“We're very supportive of FWS in siding with wildlife on this issue. Depredation hunting tends to leave large amounts of highly toxic lead ammunition on the ground that non-target birds and other wildlife consume while mistaking it for food. Those birds or other wildlife will either die agonizing deaths shortly thereafter or suffer severe illness for a prolonged period. We have had many discussions with FWS about using non-toxic shot for all agency operations and we are very glad they have made this decision,” said Dr. Michael Fry, one of the world's leading avian toxicologists and Director of Conservation Advocacy for ABC.
ABC had been one of the leaders in a group that had petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency on August 3, 2010 to ban lead ammunition used for hunting and lead fishing gear because of the toxic threats they posed to wildlife. EPA responded that they did not have the authority to regulate lead ammunition, though Congressional legislative history records document that they did have such authority. EPA then later denied the fishing gear portion of the petition saying that evidence of impacts from fishing gear were being addressed by some States, and national regulations would be overly burdensome. In the original petition, ABC and the other petitioners presented almost 500 scientific studies that documented widespread lead impacts to wildlife that result in the lead-poisoning deaths of up to millions of birds each year in the United States.
“This decision is important not only because it will keep a highly toxic substance from being strewn across the landscape, but it will also prevent birds or other wildlife that might scavenge the remains of lead-shot nuisance birds, such as Bald Eagles, bobcats and raccoons from becoming innocent mortality victims as well,” Fry added.
“The paint industry got the lead out, the gasoline industry got the lead out, the toy industry got the lead out, the home building industry got the lead out of plumbing, and even the automotive industry most recently is getting the lead out of the wheel weights on cars. The lethal impacts of lead in our environment are so well documented and accepted by the science and health community that any deliberate release of lead into a public environment should be viewed as unacceptable. The Federal Government has shown concern for human impacts of lead – we are very glad they are showing the same level of concern for wildlife,” Fry said.