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Oregon surveying residents on lead ammo for hunting

Updated 1 p.m. with more details.

HUNTING — The Oregon Fish and Wildlife plans to ask state residents to share their opinions about using lead ammunition for hunting.

A survey is being mailed this month to a random sample of 4,200 hunters in the state. The department later plans a survey of non-hunters.

A wildlife division administrator, Ron Anglin, says lead ammo is a national issue because of its effects on wildlife and human health.

California plans to ban use of lead ammo for hunting starting in 2019. 

Read on for more details from the Eugene Register-Guard and Associated Press:

EUGENE, Ore. — On the theory that what happens in California often drifts north, Oregon wildlife officials are surveying hunters in the state to gauge their opinions about lead ammunition.

By 2019, lead ammunition will be banned in California, which acted to further the recovery of the condor from near extinction.

There’s no drive in Oregon to bar lead ammunition, but the question has been contentious in the United States for years. Lead ammunition is blamed for poisoning birds that scavenge animals killed with it.

“We want to make sure that if questions are being asked, that we as an agency have a good feel of what the hunting community thinks so that we can respond with what our hunters are telling us,” said Ron Anglin, wildlife division administrator.

The survey will be mailed to a random sample of 4,200 Oregon hunters — the state has an estimated 250,000. The wildlife department plans a similar survey later of non-hunters in Oregon, Anglin said.

Oregon doesn’t regulate lead bullets, the Eugene Register-Guard (http://bit.ly/1jJdSpI ) reports, but since 1991 there has been a federal ban on lead in the shells that waterfowl hunters used in shotguns.

In years since the ban, steel and other variants of shot shells have come onto the market.

Lead ammunition is generally cheaper than the alternatives, and it’s often more effective.

“Outside of the toxicity, lead would be the ideal ballistic material — it’s cheap, it’s everywhere and it’s easy to form,” said Ralph Nauman, president of Environ-Metal in Sweet Home.

The company makes a no-lead, nontoxic brand of shot shells made of copper, nickel and iron.

The company has tried to sell bullets without lead but discontinued the line more than a decade ago, he said.

Anglin said several instances of lead poisoning among Oregon birds of prey have been documented, in eastern Oregon and the Portland area.

“When they’ve done blood tests on them, they found high levels of lead,” he said. “But we don’t know what the source of those levels was.”

In Eugene, Executive Director Louise Shimmel of the Cascades Raptor Center said her organization sees one or two instances of lead poisoning each year.

“It’s the scavengers — the eagles, the soaring hawks like red-tails, the vultures and ravens — that are going to go for gut piles of things that were shot,” she said.

Non-lead ammo may spare critters in Wyoming

WILDLIFE — Wyoming researchers say the distribution of nonlead ammunition to hunters in Jackson Hole is likely helping prevent lead poisoning of ravens, eagles and other scavengers.  But the study is in its early stages.

This is the second year researchers have tried to gauge the impacts of hunters using lead-free ammunition on the levels of lead found in the blood of big-game scavengers.

Researchers distributed nonlead ammunition to about 100 hunters who had 2010 permits for the National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park.

Biologists then captured ravens and eagles and measured the level of lead in the birds, which can ingest lead bullet fragments from gut piles and wounded-and-lost game.

Previous research has shown that lead in ravens and eagles rise during hunting season and then drop off after hunting season ends.

The Jackson Hole News and Guide says researchers plan to hand out more lead-free ammunition next hunting season.