The end of hunting with lead bullets is on the horizon, but it’s far too soon to beat ourselves up about it.
California’s ban, already in place in parts of that state, begins statewide in 2019, which leaves plenty of time to get the lead out/shot up. Other states have adopted voluntary measures and a ballot measure is afoot in Minnesota. Petitions have been filed with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to end the use of lead nationwide.
Washington is gradually tightening up where lead shot can be used on state wildlife areas and pheasant release sites, although no rules have restricted use of lead bullets.
The U.S. military, also committed to ending its use of lead, is issuing non-lead small-arms ammo to its field troops this year.
Oregon, where there is no proposal yet to ban lead for hunting, is doing its homework. California’s ban was prompted by the recovery of the California condor – the species most susceptible to lead poisoning – and Oregon is on the condor reintroduction wish list.
Oregon State University recently announced its Extension Service’s wildlife program will team with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to survey 4,200 of the state’s quarter million hunters about their use, knowledge and attitudes about lead ammunition.
They were randomly selected and should receive their eight-page forms sometime this week, said Dana Sanchez, wildlife extension biologist.
While condors spur the concern on the West Coast, the effects of lead as an environmental poison also reach raptors such as hawks and eagles. Science in the future may find other lead-related problems.
Meanwhile, the arms and ammunition industry are scrambling to meet the future demand.
The major replacement element getting the most attention is copper. Shooters who have made the switch are finding it not much more expensive or less lethal than lead.