Poisoned Wildlife and Tainted Meat: Why Hunters Are Moving Away From Lead Bullets – New York Times

ZUMWALT PRAIRIE, Ore. — Aiming a rifle loaded with a copper bullet rather than the standard type made of lead, Chelsea Cassens fired at an elk from 70 yards away, hitting it squarely behind its shoulder. To avoid spooking the animal if it was only injured, Ms. Cassens waited several minutes before approaching as her father needled her skeptically, suggesting her newfangled ammunition might not have immediately killed it.

Moments later, Ms. Cassens, her father, Ed Hughes, and the three others in their hunting party descended on the fallen 450-pound beast, carved it open, inspected the internal damage, and found the spent bullet.

“Will you look at that!” Mr. Hughes said, pleasantly surprised. The copper bullet had expanded on impact, as it was designed to do, opening a gaping hole in the elk’s lungs and killing it almost instantly.

“Her bullet did the trick just fine,” Mr. Hughes, 63, conceded, adding later that he also planned to switch from lead to copper bullets, a transition more and more hunters are making amid mounting evidence that lead bullets are poisoning the wildlife that feed on carcasses and polluting the game meat that many people eat.

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ImageMs. Cassens and her hunting party inspected the elk she had shot, finding the spent copper bullet. Image

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At least 30 states regulate the use of lead ammunition, including Oregon, where Ms. Cassens and her father met for a weeklong elk hunt this fall. In Oregon, hunters are not allowed to fire lead bullets in a number of state wildlife areas. Neighboring California, which already enforces some of the nation’s most restrictive gun laws and was the first state to prohibit lead ammunition in specific regions, recently imposed a statewide ban on that type of bullet that will go into effect

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