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Lead poisoned swans in Washington State?

Discussion in 'Northwest Hunting' started by twoclones, Mar 26, 2012.

  1. twoclones

    twoclones Tri-Cities, WA Well-Known Member

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    Environmentalists take aim at toxic lead in ammunition

    McClatchy Newspapers

    WASHINGTON -- Using a canoe or her 10-foot Zodiac boat, Martha Jordan has scooped up hundreds of sick or dead trumpeter and tundra swans from Judson Lake in northwestern Washington state, the site of one of the worst known cases of lead poisoning among wildlife.

    According to her count, at least 2,700 of them have died or needed to be euthanized since 1999 after eating lead from ammunition left in the wild by hunters. Jordan, a 62-year-old wildlife biologist from Everett, Wash., wonders why the federal government won't help more of the birds live by banning lead in ammunition.

    "I live with the results of lead shot," she said. "I live it, I breathe it - and it just sickens me when people continue to use it. ... It's pretty heart-wrenching for everybody involved. I don't want to do this. I don't want to spend my time picking up dying swans. We pick them up every year. It's a constant, chronic problem."

    In a move opposed by many hunters, Jordan, along with 100 organizations in 35 states, wants the Environmental Protection Agency to ban or severely limit the use of toxic lead in hunting ammunition.

    In a petition filed with the agency last week, the groups said that up to 20 million birds in the United States die each year after nibbling on bullet fragments, including swans, golden and bald eagles, mourning doves, California condors and more than 70 other species.

    For Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, it's a "national tragedy" and one that easily could be prevented. The nonprofit group, headquartered in Tucson, Ariz., is leading the effort for a federal clampdown, saying it's a logical progression after the EPA moved to reduce lead exposure in drinking water, paint, gasoline, toys and batteries.

    While acknowledging that it would be more costly, they want hunters to use non-toxic ammunition. Miller said that non-lead bullets are now available in all 50 states, with more than a dozen manufacturers marketing hundreds of varieties and calibers made from copper, steel and other metals. The proposed ban would not apply to ammunition used by law enforcement or the military.

    Republican Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington state, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and an opponent of the proposed ban, called it a "job-destroying effort" and said proponents of the ban have turned to the EPA "because they know that Congress will protect the Second Amendment and sportsmen's interests" in defending the use of traditional ammunition.

    "The ban on lead bullets would not only increase costs for hunters, sport shooters and fishermen, but would devastate the outdoor sportsmen and recreation industries that thrive in rural America," Hastings said, responding in a statement to questions about the issue.

    Jordan bristles at such an argument.

    "We've taken lead out of every other thing in our lives, or most everything, and we know that it's a toxic substance," she said. "And we know that lead is toxic to all life. Why is it that in the name of a recreational sport we allow lead to be spewed out onto our lands - public and private - and pollute it so that wildlife of all kinds and shapes can die and we can contaminate the soil? ... There is no need to continue to pollute our world, my world, everyone's world."

    A partial ban is already in effect.

    Since 1991, the federal government has banned the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting, and states and local jurisdictions have passed laws on their own. Whatcom County in Washington state, home of Judson Lake on the U.S.-Canadian border, passed a similar ban in 1989.

    But environmentalists say the patchwork of laws hasn't gone far enough, noting that too many birds are still dying after eating lead that's still allowed in most places for the hunting of upland birds, small mammals, big-game hunting and target practice.

    Miller said that nearly 500 scientific papers have documented the dangers to wildlife from lead exposure. In the United States, he said, 3,000 tons of lead are shot into the environment by hunters each year, with another 80,000 tons released at shooting ranges.

    "There are safe, available alternatives to lead ammo for all hunting and shooting sports, so there's no reasoning for this poisoning to go on," Miller said.

    The 100 groups that signed the petition represent conservationists, scientists, zoologists, wildlife rehabilitators, birders, American Indians, veterinarians, even some hunters. Several Washington state groups have joined the cause, including the Rainier Audubon Society in Auburn, the Kittitas Audubon Society in Ellensburg, the Lands Council in Spokane and the Loon Lake Loon Association in Loon Lake.

    The EPA rejected a similar request from environmental groups in 2010, saying it lacked the authority due to an exemption for ammunition approved by Congress when it passed the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976. And opponents of the proposed ban predict that they'll win again this year.

    "We believe that the EPA will appropriately deny the petition yet again," said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, adding that the issue of regulating lead in ammunition is "not in their sandbox" and is best left to wildlife professionals in state agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    "The industry's position is that wildlife management decisions should be based on sound science," Keane said. "Wildlife biology is based on managing populations, not to prevent harm to individual animals. If wildlife management becomes about preventing harm to individual animals, you will then just have made the argument to ban hunting."

    Hastings said it makes more sense to leave the issue to state agencies that better understand local conditions. And he said that since there's no credible evidence that species are threatened at the national level because of exposure to ammunition, a national ban would be counterproductive.

    Anticipating another showdown with environmental groups, the House Natural Resources Committee approved a bill on Feb. 29 that would block the EPA from acting on the petition. Keane said the legislation, which has 164 co-sponsors, confirms the agency's role and creates an exemption for fishing tackle, as well.

    Similar legislation, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, is pending in the Senate. It has attracted 27 cosponsors. Neither of Washington state's Democratic senators have signed on, and spokesmen for Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell declined to say this week whether the senators back the bill.

    In Washington state, Jordan, who heads a group called the Washington Swan Stewards, is happy that many hunters are choosing to buy non-toxic ammunition and some farmers are insisting that hunters use it if they hunt on their land. In addition, the Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission bans the use of lead ammunition for all upland game hunting on the state's pheasant release sites.

    According to the petition filed with the EPA, more than 2,500 trumpeter and tundra swans died after ingesting lead shot at Judson Lake, from 1999 to 2008. While the death rate has slowed in recent years, Jordan said at least 125 deaths were recorded in each of the past two years.

    After gathering up the dead swans, Jordan performs necropsies. She recalled having 236 of the birds at one "necropsy event."

    "Being in a room with 236 dead swans, 70 percent of which died of lead poisoning as it turned out, is a stinky, smelly, horrid process," she said. "I weighed them: We had 4,000 pounds of dead swan. That number is rather startling to people and, you know, that's what I live with. ... We need to be using non-toxic ammunition, because the cost to society to do otherwise is enormous."

    Posted on Mon, Mar. 26, 2012 08:38 AM
  2. Redcap

    Redcap Lewis County, WA Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like a bunch of bullbubblegum to me.
  3. sheepdip

    sheepdip Redland Well-Known Member

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    non toxic ammunition, now there is an oxi-moron for you
  4. PBinWA

    PBinWA Clark County Well-Known Member

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    Considering 1/3 of Judson lake is in Canada the proposed law wouldn't solve the problem unless they got Canada to sign off on a similar law.

    I wonder how scientifically valid their methodology was too. Are they maintaining accurate records or is this all speculative?
    twoclones and (deleted member) like this.
  5. timac

    timac Loading Magazines! Well-Known Member

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    First, let’s look at what swans eat. Well, swans eat many types of aquatic plants including sedges and pond weed. However, swans have also been known to eat a variety of different insects, aquatic beetles, snails and fresh water shrimp.
  6. Rascals

    Rascals Portland Or Active Member

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    Its got to a point if an enviromental nut says anything I dont beleive them at all. I beleive they would say anything at all just to screw with us. As for this I dont beleive it at all. Where would the swans be getting the lead? Not from bullets thats for sure.
    Redcap and (deleted member) like this.
  7. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner You'll Never Know Well-Known Member

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    I have to wonder what Eagles and Condor are doing seeking out bullet fragments and perceiving them to be food? Condor are scavangers, as are Eagles to some extent. I can see where bottom feeding ducks and other water foul would be more suceptable to lead poisoning than Swan.

    From - ADW: Cygnus buccinator: INFORMATION

    Food Habits
    As cygnets, trumpeter swans' diets are mostly comprised of aquatic invertebrates. At five weeks of age, most cygnets have converted to a nearly herbivorous diet. This diet consists mostly of tubers, roots, stems, leaves and occasionally insects. In Alaska during mating season, the wetland plants commonly known as horsetail (genus Equisetum) and Lyngbye's sedge (Carex lyngbyei) are consumed in great quantities. However, because of the wide distribution of the species there are some variations of their diet such as duck potato (Sagittaria latifolia), water weeds (genus Elodea), pondweeds (genus Potamogeton) and sago pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus) tubers.

    Trumpeter swans attain their food by foraging underwater with tails bobbing in the air. They also yank plants out of the damp ground, with most of the plant intact. (Slater, 2006)

    I'm calling BS on this environmentalists report!!
    Glockman19 and (deleted member) like this.
  8. Glockman19

    Glockman19 Hillsboro Active Member

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    Most the posts are pointed the same direction as my point: How do they know its from lead bullets or fragments??:huh:
  9. nwwoodsman

    nwwoodsman Vernonia Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter 2015 Volunteer

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    Of course lead is deadly. I've put lead in elk, deer, birds, etc and they drop on the spot
    eldbillbo and (deleted member) like this.
  10. Mutt

    Mutt Washington, Kitsap County Member

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    What a load of crap ....... present day hippies.
  11. 9mmguy

    9mmguy Portland, OR Member

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    Exactly. Hunters often leave parts of the killed animal behind, often those parts that contain a lot of the lead. Scavengers eat the remains, the lead dissolves in their blood, the birds get sick and die. Other animals find the cadavers, etc. That's pretty well documented. Not sure why so many people here are so fast to reject the report.
  12. goomer214

    goomer214 Seattle,wa New Member

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    i have a hard time believing that there are enough hunters to make a significant impact with lead rifle or pistol bullets led shot is different a lot of skeet is done over lakes and wild wooded terrain for backdrop i can understand going to either a steel shot or a alloy with solid bullets im not thinking the problem is as bad

    i would like to see solid evidence that a swan is eating led bullets its not on their diet and i bet the led is coming from another source
  13. 1evildad

    1evildad Canby Or New Member

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    i agree when are they going to start making fishing weights of other material
  14. hermannr

    hermannr Okanogan Highlands Well-Known Member

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    All birds take up small gravel, that is how they "chew" their food in their gizzard. Yes, swans will pick up shot and try use it as they would gravel to grind their food in their gizzards. That is not a problem...it does happen. How frequently may be open for discussion, but not that they do so. That is why there are "non-toxic" shot requirement when it comes to hunting waterfowl.

    So, how does that equate to Judson Lk and Swans...I am not sure...and I really question her data. That would be over 200 swans every year since 1999...and we have had a toxic shot restriction for at least that long. Then how do you translitterate that data to normal hunting bullets that would not be found in the pond/lake bottom? or the fact that lead would tend to bury itself in the mud and not be readily accessable to be picked up as "gravel"

    What you see is a person with an "no hunting at all" save the animals, d*** the people attitude that is skewing (Falsifying?) her data to fit her agenda.

    Oh, may I add. Swans feed in no more than 3 feet of water, so how does this translate to lead sinkers? I doubt that many lead sinkers are lost at that shallow a depth.
    Rascals and (deleted member) like this.
  15. Mutt

    Mutt Washington, Kitsap County Member

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    Worthless load of crap.
  16. particleman

    particleman Kenmore, WA New Member

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    The assertion, as I understand it, is that metallic lead fragments are found in the gizzard and that's what implicates lead ammunition and/or fishing sinkers as the cause of death. When swans are in need of new rocks for their gizzard, they tend to head over to the alluvial deposits in the nearest body of water and start sifting the small gravel there for the right size of rocks. In this process, they may pick up lead shot, fishing sinkers, bullet fragments, etc. For eagles and condors, the theory is that the ammunition fragments get into the gizzard when they scavenge hunter remains or lost kills.

    Once in the gizzard, the lead becomes fragmented or polished off by the crushing action of the other rocks in the gizzard, and those small fragments then move with the food into the main digestive tract. With their high relative surface area, those particles of lead are likely to be converted into one of the fairly toxic lead compounds (since metallic lead is not toxic, just the salts) and from there, enter the bird's circulatory system to cause damage.

    That's the assertion, and if they can cut open a dead bird and show pieces of lead in the gizzard, then it's a fairly credible assertion.

    One question I have: how much of the swan mortality is due to old lead? I.e. lead shot that was left there by hunters prior to the federal ban on lead shot for waterfowl? I find it difficult to believe that fishermen are leaving so many lead sinkers that they would have a dramatic effect. I've been using the same box of lead sinkers since I was in college. What kind of swan mortality is actually caused by bullets containing lead?
  17. particleman

    particleman Kenmore, WA New Member

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    Exactly. I'm willing to posit that old lead shot may still be killing swans, but I don't follow how a ban on hunting game with bullets containing lead will save any more birds.

    Right. Not only how many sinkers are lost in that lake each year, but how many are lost in circumstances that they could end up in the shallows? I can usually fish for several days on one set of sinkers, and ever since switching to threaded sinkers over pinch sinkers, I can usually go for weeks without losing my sinkers on a snag or other bad planning... But even when I was using pinch sinkers with my dad back in the '80s, we would pack them out with our spent line and other garbage.
  18. Straight Shooter

    Straight Shooter North Bend OR Active Member

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    Our local gun club has lead shot litterally piled feet deep with a major drainage going through it that feeds directly into the river. Our local tree huggers have been trying to get the range shut down by sicking the EPA on them. They have water monitors in the river, the creek, local wells and even in the flooded low spots filled with lead and the lead output is well under what is considered toxic. The EPA says this really is normal because lead doesn't desolve in water. That said, geese and ducks nest and live all over the property. In the history of the club no one can remember ever seeing a sick or ailing waterfowl. Plenty of hawks make their living around the club and we have yet to observe a sick one.
  19. jbett98

    jbett98 NW Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    More likely it's pollution from fertilizers and toxic chemicals that has leached into the water that's to blame.