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Eagles and lead (07/28/2014)
From: Warren Robertson


The recent article in the Post regarding eagle deaths in the National Wildlife Refuge system was troubling because it illustrates the apparent desire by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ban the most popular hunting ammunition with no real biological justification.

Eagle populations are at record levels and are continuing to increase. Their population crash, decades ago, was the result of pesticides and habitat loss, not from lead poisoning, and hunters have helped to restore the habitat that has facilitated their recovery through the 11 percent tax they pay on their bullets (Pittman-Robertson Act). The refuge system is financed by duck stamps, also primarily purchased by hunters, also a part of the Pittman-Robertson Act.

Traditional ammunition uses lead bullets because lead has unique traits: it is very dense, malleable and affordable. The density of lead enables it to carry a lot of energy in a small package, and its ability to mushroom on impact enables the projectile to efficiently deliver that energy to humanely dispatch game animals. Lead bullets do not “shatter” on impact — in fact, many premium bonded bullets retain nearly 100 percent of their original weight — but the biologists never seem to advise hunters to use these bonded bullets for some reason.

Copper bullets are significantly more expensive than typical traditional bullets, and they do not expand on impact as much as traditional lead cored bullets, so the refuge manager’s contention that they kill deer faster is just plain wrong.

A national campaign by the Humane Society of the United States — an organization committed to ending hunting — is currently underway to ban traditional ammunition, and it appears that the federal government is a willing partner in that effort through the National Wildlife Refuge system. Driving up the cost of ammunition is likely to drive some hunters out of the woods.

Animal rights and anti-hunting groups often times will skew the facts and bend information to make their agenda sound more plausible. The author of the recent article, in your paper, incorrectly stated the number of eagles that were tested in the four state area in which the refuge resides in. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated in its report that only 54 eagles were tested from this area. The other 114 eagles that were tested came from the National Eagle Repository in Colorado. The National Eagle Repository is a collection site for dead eagles that is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the purpose of feather collection for native tribes. The report titled “Lead Exposure in Bald Eagles in the Upper Midwest” is available online from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service if one wishes to read the report themselves. 


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