Hunters should be allies of conservationists—in the best situations, hunting and wildlife groups have been great advocates of preserving habitat, which is the core issue, I think, in protecting biodiversity. If they’re doing it so they can go in and blow away a few big meaty game animals, well, OK…setting aside that acreage also means a richer array of songbirds and arthropods and plants and fish and lizards and amphibians, which normally aren’t shot up, have a better chance of survival.

Sometimes, though, short-sightedness and denial and a refusal to deal with a minor inconvenience undercut that whole plan. An article on the California condors is a perfect example: the use of lead ammunition is killing the birds indirectly. Wild condors have a ten times greater concentration of lead in their blood compared to captive birds, and the source is the flurry of lead hunters are flinging into the environment.

“The condor food supply is almost completely contaminated,” says Noel Snyder, a retired biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. He adds that Hunt’s research [5.1MB PDF] shows that deer flesh is tainted after the animals are shot; this raises questions about human health as well. “When you look at these X-rays, you have to ask yourself, ‘Why would I eat deer meat?’”

In recent years, California has attempted to limit the use of lead ammunition in the condor range, but introduced legislation continues to get defeated. Kelly Sorenson of the Ventana Wildlife Society says that hunting groups and the National Rifle Association are resisting change but that lawsuits filed in July by environmental groups may force state legislators to act. Although it is costly, ammunition made from other metals is available.

Every fall, I know that lots of my students take off for opening weekend of deer season—I even consult the DNR schedule when putting together my exam calendar—and it’s nice to know now that they’re putting their brains at risk. Chronic Wasting Disease is scary enough, now it’s also a question of lead poisoning. I think I’ll avoid the venison.


  1. #1 Ichthyic
    August 30, 2006

    Bismuth, despite it’s nasty neighbors in the periodic table, is entirely non-toxic. It’s the last non-radioactive* element in the periodic table, so it’s very dense (about as dense as lead). It’s also brittle, which makes it efficient at dissipating its energy into its target (and not going anywhere else), which is good for ammunition.

    isn’t bismuth salicyclate the primary active ingredient in Pepto Bismol?

    better not be toxic.


  2. #2 Ichthyic
    August 30, 2006

    I also do not recommend trying to show a horny buck how to use a condom (long story).

    oh, no WAY do you get off that easy!

    I gotta hear that story, long or not!

  3. #3 Ichthyic
    August 30, 2006

    [quote]let hunters hunt each other. [/quote]

    but the problem with that is humans taste terrible.

    or have i said too much?

  4. #4 RavenT
    August 30, 2006

    or have i said too much?

    Sounds like you’re not using enough tarragon, Ichthyic.

  5. #5 Ichthyic
    August 31, 2006

    Sounds like you’re not using enough tarragon, Ichthyic.

    ahh, that might be it.

    …and to think, I use tarragon on my fish all the time.

  6. #6 Ichthyic
    August 31, 2006

    Typically they’ll hunt one or two animals a year and fill their freezers with the meat.

    Elk. Mmmmm…

    ever try Mooseburgers or Moose lasagna?

    not bad, really.

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