There are few sights more wrenching to a wildlife rehabilitator than a convulsing, lead-poisoned bird.

Waterbirds eat lead shot while scouring the bottoms of ponds and lakes for food, songbirds ingest lead fragments along with grit and small stones to aid their digestion, and when raptors scavenge gutpiles and carcasses, they can end up with entire bullets, plus fragments, in their system.

Lead has been banned from paint and gasoline because ingesting it can cause depression, lethargy, paralysis, seizures, blindness, and death. Using lead shot for waterfowl was banned in 1991, but it persists in the environment. Lead bullets and lead shot are still available to the public, and widely used.

In what some might see as an unlikely alliance, wildlife rehabilitators, veterinarians, and – yes – hunters have banded together to convince those who hunt to use copper bullets instead of lead. The NRA has tried to portray this movement as “taking away hunters’ rights,” which does nothing but insult the hunters already on board. The hunters currently pushing copper bullets have seen the x-rays proving that lead bullets splinter when they enter an animal, and they know that the meat hunters feed their families is filled with lead fragments (x-ray, left, of white-tailed deer.)

On November 13, “The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act” will come in front of the Senate. This bill would re-write the Toxic Substances Control Act, in order to prevent the EPA from even considering evaluating the risks of toxic lead ammunition. This is not protecting hunters’ rights; this is taking away a law that protects the health of both hunters and wildlife.

The Center for Biological Diversity wants to stop the NRA’s lead-poisoning legislation. Join, share, and post this action alert to help “get the lead out” of the Sportsmen’s Act!

And please share the Vimeo video The Non-Lead Hunter with anyone you know who hunts. It was made by Anthony Prieto, a life-long hunter whose mission is to convince fellow hunters to switch to copper bullets. There are two graphic scenes of hunting wild pigs, in order to prove that copper is just as effective as lead. If viewing will upset you, simply pass it along. I am not a hunter, but I applaud the ones who work to make the environment safer for all wildlife.

Written by Suzie
Suzie Gilbert is a wild bird rehabilitator whose shameful secret is that on more than one occasion she has received a female LBJ, or a fledgling whatever, and has been completely unable to ID it. Luckily she has birder friends who will rush to her aid, although she must then suffer their mockery. She is the author of her bird-rehabbing memoir Flyaway (HarperCollins) and the children's book Hawk Hill (Chronicle Books). Her recent suspenseful, bird-filled adventure novel Unflappable (Perch Press) was selected by Audubon Magazine as one of their Three Best Summer Reads of 2020. She lives in New York's beautiful Hudson Valley and is always up for a good hike.