Hunt Non-lead to Protect Non-game Wildlife

Conservation is Our Hunting Heritage: Using Non-lead Ammo to Protect Wildlife

By Emily M. Davenport, Nature’s Educators

Hunters were among the first conservationists and remain a strong force in conservation today. Through programs like the Pittman-Robertson Act and the Duck Stamp Program, hunters help fund conservation programs all over the United States, assisting in the restoration of bird species like the wild turkey and wood ducks. Now that tradition continues as hunters and conservation organizations partner to champion the change to non-lead ammunition.

Lead Ammo Impacts Non-target Wildlife

Every good marksmen would agree that a successful hunt takes just one pull of the trigger to drop the animal with a quick, humane kill. Accidentally killing non-target wildlife isn’t any hunter’s intention. However, when hunters use lead-based bullets, any remains left behind from the kill have the potential to expose predators and scavengers—like eagles, hawks, and falcons—to lead.

Lead-based bullets fragment upon impact with a target. When a scavenger or predator ingests these fragments, the consequences can be fatal because of the following:

  • Lead dissolves in the animal’s stomach and is absorbed into the bloodstream, tissues, and bones.
  • Lead attacks the nervous system—causing tremors, convulsions, cognitive delays, and poor coordination—and paralyzes the gastrointestinal tract.
  • The animal eventually dies either directly from the lead poisoning or because the symptoms impede its ability to hunt or ward off predators.

Because of this problem, the National Wildlife Federation promotes the voluntary adoption of lead-free alternatives for hunters and anglers to ensure clean, lead-free landscapes that support healthy wildlife populations.

Nature’s Educators and Denver Audubon are working together to promote the positive contributions of hunting and the use of non-lead ammunition by providing accurate information and resources to hunters. So how can hunters help? Consider using non-lead ammunition.

Non-lead Ammunition Works

Non-lead bullets are typically made of copper or copper alloys, which are lighter in weight than lead-based bullets. Because manufacturers have been improving copper bullet designs since the 1980s, numerous calibers and bullet weights are widely available.

Most importantly, copper bullets are effective. Some have expressed concerns that their lighter weight and lower fragmentation would transfer less energy upon impact. However, the website Hunting with Non-lead Aummunition found that “the differences were small.” The site also reports that copper bullets expand their diameters on impact similar to lead-based bullets, which is important to widen the wound channel and increase the efficiency of a kill. In addition, because copper bullets fragment far less than lead-based bullets, meat is less contaminated with bullet fragments.

Non-lead bullets have been used for almost 30 years. Today, Federal, Hornady, Winchester, Remington, and more offer factory loaded non-lead ammunition. Please visit the Hunting with Non-lead Ammunition website to read more on manufacturers of non-lead bullets and cost comparisons.

Non-lead Ammunition is Cost-effective

The price of non-lead ammunition is generally the same as premium lead ammunition. In fact, sometimes it costs less. For some calibers, the difference between cheaper lead ammunition and non-lead ammunition can be less than $10 per box, especially if hunters shop online. Regardless, ammunition is often the least expensive part of a hunt and one of the only things that touches the harvested animal.

After learning how much lead bullets fragment and how those fragments impact wildlife, many hunters are making the switch voluntarily. Voluntary initiatives are already being championed by hunters in other states like Utah and Arizona. In reality, by using non-lead bullets, hunters have switched to a better, higher quality ammunition.

Still not ready to try non-lead ammunition? Then please pack out gut piles to help prevent lead poisoning of non-target wildlife.

Continuing a Conservation Tradition

The North American Non-Lead Partnership works to engage hunters and other wildlife enthusiasts. It supports the long-term viability of scientifically managed hunting and the associated conservation culture by providing programs that encourage conservation actions. The partnership supports scientific research to assess the relative risks of using lead ammunition on wildlife.

Through hunting, humans forged a connection with the land and learned quickly that environmental stewardship went hand-in-hand with preserving wildlife—and our own way of life. We believe the perfect continuation of the story of hunters’ conservation efforts would be if they championed the non-lead movement. We strongly believe hunters are the answer! The answer is you!

Brochure and Additional Resources

The brochure “Continuing a Conservation Tradition” was written by Nature’s Educators and Denver Audubon and is available for you to download and distribute.

For more information on hunting in Colorado and the impacts of lead ammunition:

Nature’s Educators’ mission is to elevate the care and protection of wildlife by fostering memorable connections that inspire our community to become more environmentally conscious through collaboration, education, and rehabilitation.

Denver Audubon’s mission is to inspire actions that protect birds, other wildlife, and their habitats through education, conservation, and research.