Lead Poisoning: How to Help

The first obstacle that must be overcome is the general lack of awareness of the impact of lead toxicity on a variety of species and the need for good, dependable information – from credible sources – about both the true extent of the problem and the range of solutions available to eliminate the threat posed by lead hunting ammunition. Once hunters become aware of how serious this problem is, and understand what they can do to voluntarily reduce or eliminate the problem, the Wildlife Center of Virginia is convinced that the threat to eagles and other non-target wildlife can be immediately reduced.

Even for those who do not hunt, education is key. The issue of lead poisoning from spent bullets and shot is not a new one, but is one that has gotten very little public attention in many areas.

Important actions that non-hunters can take:

  • Learn about the issue and have conversations with family and friends who hunt. It’s important to be able to have a positive and respectful conversation; the goal is to educate and inform, not judge or condemn hunting.
  • Contact your local media and provide them with links to the Wildlife Center’s information about this issue. 
  • Ask local media to investigate the extent of the problem in your area, and report to the public any issues found. 
  • Reach out to hunter safety instructors in your community to encourage them to become informed about the issue of lead poisoning related to game and animal parts left in the field.  Encourage instructors to add a section to their training course about the proper disposal of animal parts that may contain lead, and to inform their students about the alternatives to lead shot which can eliminate the problem altogether. 
  • Contact local retailers of firearms and ammunition to encourage them to stock and make available a wide variety of non-lead alternatives for hunters.  If hunters are not able to find lead-free ammunition, they cannot use it.  Both hunters and non- hunters can work to be sure it is available.

Additionally, understanding the scope of this problem is important to conveying a compelling educational message about lead toxicity. Wildlife hospitals and rehabilitation centers across North America need to make a concerted effort to collect blood samples for testing, according to defined and standardized protocols, to fully diagnose patients suspected of having elevated levels of lead in their blood and then to monitor their patients’ response to various treatment regimens. Even facilities without in-house test equipment need to collect samples for testing elsewhere.

Important actions to take:

  • Contact your local rehabilitation centers to determine if they are currently testing for lead in raptors. If not, offer to support and fund efforts to do so, or at least to collect samples for testing by others.
  • If rehabilitation centers need technical advice, they should contact the Wildlife Center of Virginia.