Monday, January 5, 2009

deer hunters cause lead poisoning in eagles

There was an article in the paper yesterday about how research has linked the lead content in bullets used for deer hunting with lead poisoning in bald eagles. (Link, but it probably won't last very long and you'll probably have to register to read it, because the local paper is stupid like that, but do read it if you can.) I am slightly embarrassed by my own species that it took us this long to make the connection--hunters field dress the deer, eagles feed at the gut piles, duh--but I'm glad the connection has been made and that people are trying to do something about it.

What I'm not so glad about is how much trouble the wildlife researchers are having trying to convince hunters to use alternatives to lead bullets. The article says that when they talk to hunters about the issue, one of the responses that they hear the most is "So what?" So what if a few eagles are dying? They're off the endagered species list, the population has recovered from DDT. So what if we're poisoning them with lead now?

And the thing is, a lot of the wildlife researchers are deer hunters themselves, and they are doing their darnedest to make it clear that they're not anti-hunting or anti-gun. But they are anti-poison, and they're just trying to find a solution that will work for everyone. But the majority of hunters still fuss and pout and keep using lead bullets, and so eagles keep getting poisoned. And it's not like the evidence is inconclusive—something like a third of all the eagles that enter rehabilition centers test positive for lead poisoning (and most end up dying because of it), and nearly all the cases of lead poisoning come in during deer season.

Despite the fact that I am a tenderhearted vegetarian, in theory I don't really have a lot of issues with ethical, sustainable hunting. If people are going to eat meat anyway--and I don't think I can convince them all not to--I would much rather that they get their meat from hunting, fishing, or raising their own livestock, instead of picking up some factory-farmed, plastic wrapped chicken from the supermarket. But oh, hunters, please get your act together soon, because you're really not endearing yourself to anyone here.


huntohio said...

i dont see how eagles eating gut piles could cause lead poisioning, i CAN see how eagles eating bullets or fragments IN the guy piles causing this though

anna_bird said...

Interesting. There was also that story about the lead-contaminated venison donated by hunters to charity. So hey, if you can't get them concerned about eagles, maybe the idea of fellow humans potentially being poisoned would work.

greentangle said...

Think of this resistance and indifference the next time a hunter tells you how much s/he loves wildlife and nature.

Sonya said...

huntohio-- Well, yes, I suppose I could have been more clear, but I thought that detail was implied by the rest of my post and also the article that I linked to.

Anna-- It's a nice thought, but when that story first came up (last year? I think?) I don't recall there being any big outcry, and the general consensus among a lot of hunters was, "Oh, it's fine. A little lead never hurt anyone."

greentangle-- Eh, I don't want to paint all hunters with the same broad brush. I'm sure that some/many do genuinely care about nature, and do/will use alternative to lead bullets. Now, when ATVers and snowmobilers claim to like "getting out in nature," *that* makes me want to say, "Ah, no. No you don't. You like machines that make noise and wreck destruction. If you like nature, then go for a freakin' walk."