Hunters who use lead bullets may be contributing to the lead poisoning of eagles and ravens. But a voluntary non-lead ammunition program on the National Elk Refuge in Jackson is helping to curb the problem.
Back in 2010, the non-profit Craighead Beringia South gave away copper bullets to prove to hunters that the quality was as good or better than lead. Research biologist Ross Crandall says, hunters are natural conservationists and don’t want to contribute to the illness or death of scavengers feeding on their gut piles anyway.
“It’s not like we had to sell the bullets,” he says. “A lot of people that came in to get ammunition already knew about the performance of these bullets. And so, for the most part, you know, 99% of the people we interacted with were completely for it.”
Crandall says their research encouraged the National Elk Refuge to adopt the voluntary program.
“The refuge has been great by advocating a voluntary switch,” he says. “And this year, I think they had somewhere around 70% of the successful elk hunters use non-lead ammunition, which we just think is fantastic.”
Crandall says, lead poisoning in birds is a problem nationwide. In the future, he says, his organization hopes to offer such educational programs as the copper-bullet give aways in other areas of the state and country, too.