MISSOULA, MT (July 16, 2019) — The Boone and Crockett Club released a position statement today in light of California’s statewide ban on lead ammunition for hunters, which took effect on July 1, 2019. Triggered by concerns for the endangered California condor, which inhabit some regions of the state, a bill was signed into law in October 2013 banning all lead ammunition for the taking of game anywhere in the state.
“The history of wildlife conservation in North America has been shaped by the choices sportsmen make to benefit wildlife and their habitats,” said Timothy C Brady, president of the Boone and Crockett Club. “Unfortunately for the sportsmen in California, legislators have made the decision about the use of lead even in areas of California where condors aren’t present.”
Studies have shown that lead bullet fragments left in the remains of harvested big game animals can unintentionally increase the risk of sickness or mortality when ingested by condors. In other states where condors exist, state wildlife agencies are offering hunter education and providing non-lead ammunition for use in those areas. Sportsmen themselves are opting to use non-lead ammunition in certain situations to reduce the probability of unintentionally impacting scavenging raptors. These efforts have met with success, both in acceptance from sportsmen and reductions in lead fragments left in the field.
Lead is a toxic substance that can create health issues in wildlife and people when ingested or inhaled. The use of lead-based hunting ammunition has become the subject of much debate, focusing on the existence, extent, and types of poisoning risk and how to best address them.
The primary wildlife species of concern are birds: migratory waterfowl that ingest spent lead shot while feeding and avian scavengers that can eat the remains of dead game animals that were killed with lead ammunition (typically remains not removed from the field by hunters that contain lead fragments). These bird species are vulnerable to lead in the carrion they can feed upon because of the structure of their digestive tracts (i.e., the grinding action of their gizzards), and their far-ranging mobility. Federal regulations to restrict waterfowl hunting to lead-free shot were first introduced in the 1980’s in the United States, and were mirrored in Canada. There is no evidence that lead from target or recreational shooting is a factor.
The controversy over wildlife poisoning from lead ammunition has centered around the critically endangered California condor due to their low population numbers (slightly more than 400 nationally) and a number of scientific studies providing evidence that spent lead ammunition is one source of lead exposure for this scavenger. Initially, California implemented a ban on the use of lead ammunition in areas where condors nest and feed, which is limited parts of the central and southern mountains. Later, California enacted a statewide ban, which has been correctly criticized as overly broad and scientifically unwarranted. In other states where condors exist, such as Arizona, public education and voluntary lead-free ammunition programs have proven to be as effective as restrictive regulations.
There is also concern about human exposure to lead as a result of eating game taken with lead ammunition. Although visible lead fragments can be removed during the cleaning process, extremely small fragments can still be ingested because they are difficult to detect. Some studies have shown an association between human blood lead levels and a consistent diet of eating game meat harvested with lead ammunition, but these elevated levels are below the levels of concern identified by the Center for Disease Control for adults. To date, there is no conclusive evidence of serious illness or death of humans caused by eating game taken with lead ammunition.
Boone and Crockett Position
The Boone and Crockett Club supports the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which specifically recognizes science as the basis for informed management and decision-making processes. Scientific wildlife management recognizes that while the mortality of an individual bird is a concern, it may not necessarily indicate a threat to an entire population and warrant a blanket nationwide or statewide ban of lead ammunition. The Club urges agencies and organizations to promote scientific research about the effects of lead ammunition on avian scavengers, and support needed policies and management actions based on sound, peer-reviewed science that manages wildlife at the population level.
While the Club supports current federal regulations pertaining to the use of lead shot for all waterfowl regardless of location, it maintains that state wildlife agencies (not federal/state legislators or voters) are in the best position to determine if another species within their state is at risk and if this situation warrants restrictions on the use of lead ammunition. For this reason, the Club believes that if an individual state wildlife agency decides that lead exposure represents a population-level issue for a particular species in a given area, it should be up to that agency to implement targeted solutions that do not unnecessarily restrict hunting or shooting opportunities, including hunter education, voluntary programs, or mandatory programs using suitable ammunition alternatives.
The Boone and Crockett Club also supports a Fair Chase® hunting ethic, which includes sportsmen making personal choices to ensure the ethical hunting of game to benefit wildlife conservation in general. Sportsmen should be aware of potential unintended consequences to non-hunted species, and if they feel this may be a concern in the areas where they hunt, the Club supports sportsmen choosing to use alternative ammunition.
About the Boone and Crockett Club
Founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, the Boone and Crockett Club is the oldest conservation organization in North America and helped to establish the principles of wildlife and habitat conservation, hunter ethics, as well as many of the institutions, expert agencies, science and funding mechanisms for conservation. Member accomplishments include enlarging and protecting Yellowstone and establishing Glacier and Denali national parks, founding the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge System, fostering the Pittman-Robertson and Lacey Acts, creating the Federal Duck Stamp program, and developing the cornerstones of modern game laws. The Boone and Crockett Club continues to be the leader in the hunter-conservationist community through its’ work in Conservation Policy, Conservation Education programs at major universities, Hunter Ethics, and Research, and collaboration with similarly focused organizations. The Club is headquartered in Missoula, Montana. For details, visit www.boone-crockett.org.
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