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Old May 20, 2000, 11:00 AM   #1
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Don't know if anybody saw it, but in the new Field & Stream, there is a small article about it. The Director of The Raptor Center in St. Paul, MN says that the % of eagles that they care for that are suffering from lead poisoning has remained constant for the last 20 years at about 1/4 to 1/3 of the birds that they care for. 26 eagles in their care last fall had some degree of lead poisoning. And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that lead poisoning is responsible for approx 10% of all eagle deaths. Now we all know that the ban on lead shot for waterfowl in '91 was supposed to take care of this problem, so they have found a new scapegoat, deer hunters. Director Redig of The Raptor Center says "I'm always struck by how the influx of lead-poisoned eagles coincides with the deer hunting seasons" across the upper Midwest. His theory is that the eagles are poisoned by ingesting bullet fragments while scavenging gut piles. (NOT proven by any foresic evidence, just his opinion, and since he is the expert, we all must be good little sheep and believe what they tell us.) Auburn University also has a Raptor Center and they report recently recieving 2 golden eagles with lead poisoning, one of which was spotted feeding on a deer carcass.
Now it seems to me that the influx of injured or sick birds being brought to the center in the fall, during deer season, would only have been found and "rescued" by deer hunters. He does not say if their is an "influx" of birds in general (not suffering from lead poisoning) during hunting season. It is also my understanding of lead poisoning that it is a cumulative event, so finding a sick eagle eating on a fresh gut pile doesn't really seem to make sense as the cause.
So far, they are only advising the burying of gut piles. How long do you think a gut pile will stay buried? Considering that where I hunt, you might be able to find bloodstained grass 48 hrs later, and the majority of piles disappear overnight, burying it might gain about 5 minutes while the coyotes and other critters have to dig to uncover it. I haven't ever seen an eagle feeding on a gut pile, (not saying it doesn't happen, just that I've never seen it) but I have seen lots of crows. How come they aren't concerned about the poor crows? Evidently they don't much care about other critters that would be able to dig up a pile that has been buried, or the other scavenger species that will feed on the piles. (Bald eagles are scavengers, check out Ben Franklins opinion of them) How much of a gut pile would an eagle eat, maybe a pound out of a 40 lb pile? A couple of hungry coyotes will clean up the whole buffet, and even lick the grass clean. I would expect the symptoms of lead poisoning including reduced fertility and population decline to be much more evident in the species that are actually doing more feeding on gut piles than the eagles.
Looks to me like an another attempt to cover up failed policies by placing the blame on factors that were not taken into account in the formulation of the original restrictions. I am anxiously awaiting further feel-good government restrictions and legislation to protect both Bambi and our national symbol that will cost us sportsmen tons of money while further reducing our freedom to participate in the cycle of life.
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Old May 20, 2000, 12:46 PM   #2
Jeff Thomas
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I'm not (yet) a deer hunter, so please bear with me if this is a stupid question.

If this was a significant problem, wouldn't lead poisoning be common among hunters and their families? I mean, in spite of best efforts, wouldn't those who consume most of the meat have a much higher likelihood of ingesting lead?

Are there a lot of deer hunters roaming the woods, walking into trees, and having fewer children these days?
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Old May 22, 2000, 12:34 PM   #3
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I try not to eat too many bullet fragments, its hard on the teeth Actually, I don't think I've ever chomped down on a fragment in venison, an occasional stray shot in a bird though is a different story. Really, all of the deer I've shot, and most that I've seen had both entrance and exit wounds indicating that at least most of the bullet is no longer in the deer. If there are fragments, I would expect most of them to be in the meat of the shoulder area rather than in the guts.
I am sure that it sounds like a good, noble cause to the uninitiated, touchy feely types that don't have a clue as to what goes on out in the natural world.
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Old May 22, 2000, 01:12 PM   #4
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Hmmm.... I know some types of eagles eat a lot of fish, and the last time I went fishing the weights were made of lead, and most people fish in the summer and fall...
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Old May 22, 2000, 11:36 PM   #5
Art Eatman
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I think Bergie hit on it pretty well: How many deer or elk are ever shot in the guts?

The next obvious question has to do with the amount of lead available to an eagle: With jacketed bullets, and so much full penetration of game animals, whence cometh this lead? There ain't no magic, infusing the guts with lead dust or whatever.

Fergit deer hunters. Total BS.

Upland birds? How many guys gut their dove or quail right then and there when they pick it up? And most of those birds only have two or three pellets hit, anyway. Duh?

If I was a guessin' fella, I'd say that an already-lead-infested eagle got hurt and brought in at a time when more people were out in the boonies than usual. Or, during a migration pattern when the eagles might tend to be closer to where people are. The rest of the year, they just die.

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