Comments abound on the question: Should Oregon ban lead ammunition? – The Oregonian

Tuesday we posted a story about the problems lead poisoning poses for wildlife, including California condors, a critically endangered species.

The first Oregon Zoo-hatched condor, which now flies free over Big Sur and Pinnacles National Park in central California, has been treated six times for lead poisoning, a common problem.

Researchers say a switch to non-lead ammo has led to a dramatic drop in the number of condors living in Arizona and Utah that required treatment for lead poisoning: 11 this year, down from 28 last year.

The most significant hazard to wildlife, according to the National Wildlife Health Center, is through ingesting spent lead shot and bullets, lost fishing sinkers, tackle and related fragments, or through eating wounded or dead prey containing lead shot, bullets or fragments, or gut piles left behind by hunters.

California is the first state to ban lead ammo; it will phase it out by 2019.

That story includes a poll, open to votes through Thursday, asking whether Oregon should implement a similar ban, and it asked commenters to weigh in on the topic. They did in droves and opinions are all over the place, including:

HoloceneMan wrote: I presume we are talking about replacing lead with steel? Copper is just as, or more toxic, to different wildlife receptors…like fish. Steel would be good, and less lead great, but we should reduce the amount of copper in target and hunting ammo too.

To which tikanawiki replied: Actually, it is primarily copper, though there are different alloys that are used in conjunction with copper. When it comes to smaller rounds like .22 rimfire, tin is a common material. The difference between lead and copper is that lead, being a soft metal, fragments into tiny, easily digestible pieces, especially in regards to birds that hold these metal bits in their crops for extended periods of time. Copper is in comparison a relatively hard metal and does not fragment to any significant degree when it impacts the animal. Instead of hundreds of tiny fragments that are easily absorbed, you have one big slug with limited digestible surface area, that can be easily expelled from the crop. Your concern IS valid, as copper is toxic, but the mechanics of copper bullets make this threat significantly less.

Jaxxis wrote: I think its a good idea, at least for shotgun ammunition. I would think thats the main source anyway. It should be an easy transition for that kind of cartridge. Single bullet, or “rifle” ammo might be a little tougher due to the fact that it’s all about specific weight. Not impossible though. I think bird hunters are probably the guiltiest parties. Almost all bird hunting takes place in or around water. Also, I believe there is just more of them, or at least more total hours spent hunting birds than large game. Lead shot also spreads out in a larger area than the other. A bird also has the ability to still fly away and live even when hit by a few pellets. Leaving lead for whatever eats it later when it eventually dies. I guess I wouldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t want the switch. Unless someone likes lead in their diet. I am a large game hunter for the record.

That one drew lots of response, including:

From Logan 9891: This is nothing but fear based science that has no scientific evidence to back up their agenda. The State of Iowa conducted a 15 year study and tested over 500,000 hunters blood levels including children and found no evidence to support toxic lead levels from consuming game animals. Raptors have increased and their numbers are booming across the nation. The Recovery of the Bald Eagle is one example . The recovery of Raptors had been made possible by the 11 percent excise tax on lead ammunition that goes directly into State Wildlife Conservation Funds . I repeat their is no sound science to back up this California Raptor claim. It’s a fear based agenda to promote their cause of anti hunting and gun control. Their is a lot more lead in our environment from Industrial Pollution and other sources then from the small amount of lead produced from hunting ammunition. The gut pile claim is absurd and humorous to me. Hunters shoot animals in the vital organs for a quick and clean kill. Furthermore the majority of hunting ammunition passes clean through the animal that is shot. Their is no lead to ingest in the gut piles.

Followed by a response to Logan 9891 from Citizen Joe: Logan: You write: “The State of Iowa conducted a 15 year study and tested over 500,000 hunters blood levels…” That is simply not true. It is true that Iowa has an infant/child screening program that did test about 500,000 in 15 years, but there was no “study” and few, if any, hunters were screened. There are fewer than 200,000 hunters in Iowa, there is no screening program for them, and, really, no reason to have a screening program, as the risk of significant lead toxicity to an ordinary hunter is small, and the cost of a screening program would be absurdly high. Hunters need to wash hands after handling lead, need to avoid eating meat that has been fouled by lead. They don’t need a blood test to know that. The drive for lead-free ammunition is about more than the safety of the hunter.

Pilotrockpat added this: Copper is a great alternative to lead for big game hunting. It generally penetrates better so is less likely to be left in the “gut pile” by accuracy challenged hunters. (I always wondered how they knew…gut pile autopsies?) Personal experience here; I have been using them for nearly 20 years. Steel is a good choice for shotgunners. The problem is one must shoot at a closer range with steel as it has less mass and energy. I have little experience here but have talked to many bird hunters and they all say the same thing…shoot fast and close. Many hunters are fond of shooting at longer ranges and this habit just creates cripples. Another factor to consider is the future availability of lead. Lead is needed for much more than shooting and the world supply is rapidly diminishing. At current use rates, the supply of lead is estimated to run out in 42 years by some accounts. Hmmm, something to think about.

Aphd wrote: I’ll confess to being surprised that this policy isn’t already in place. There was a time when the ecological effects of lead were not clearly documented or widely known, but that was a long time ago. This should have been done back in the 1980s or early 1990s at the very latests.

Pirkfan expressed skepticism about a ban’s practicality: Manufacturers of 22 rimfire cartridges have tried to find substitutes for lead with little success. I’m not aware of any manufacturer who currently makes such a cartridge. 22 rimfire is ubiquitous because it’s cheap and is the cartridge of choice for target shooting as well as for the control of pests such as ground squirrels and nutria. Because it’s relatively low velocity, the bullet may well remain in the body of a relatively large animal such as a nutria. Where possible, I’ve switched to using non-lead shotshells when eliminating them, but these have a relatively short range. People who are convinced that the government is trying to take away their guns by restricting ammunition are hoarding 22 rimfire cartridges in vast numbers. If you want to amuse the clerk at the local Bi-Mart sporting goods desk, just go in and ask for a box of “22 shells”. You’ll get a funny look but no product. There must be untold millions of rounds of 22 rimfire (all lead based), hoarded in peoples private “stash”. So good luck with banning that.

Ochotona shared a sad story: The first breeding male condor at Pinnacles National Park, #318, died in November 2012 after ingesting a lead .22 caliber bullet, presumably while feeding on a carcass. The bird was found in San Benito County barely alive and unable to feed or use its legs to stand. Veterinarians could not save the bird. Cause of death, through necropsy, was determined to be lead toxicosis. A radiograph showed multiple metal fragments and a bullet-shaped object in the digestive tract. The object was removed and determined to be a .22 caliber lead bullet.

Meanwhile, under_dog stood his ground on gun rights: News flash: When you shoot lead in the air, it doesn’t stay there. I’m sure the gun grabbers will be all for taking away ammunition. I’m glad they weren’t born yet when we had to fight for this country or when the pioneers were coming west.

— Katy Muldoon

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