Federal study: Traditional ammo killing bald eagles


Lee’s note: The National Shooting Sports Foundation has gotten a preview of a study that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will soon release.

The study supposedly links bald eagle deaths in the Midwest to the use of traditional lead ammunition.

The NSSF strongly rejects the USFWS report, as do many industry leaders.

Here’s the NSSF statement:

NSSF Statement on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Study on Traditional Ammunition and Bald Eagles

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made available a preview of a eaglenew study regarding traditional ammunition and mortality of bald eagles in the upper Midwest that has led to news stories misleading the public into thinking the use of traditional ammunition containing lead components is having a population-level impact on bald eagles.

That is not the case.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry, points out that no conclusive evidence exists that shows hunters and target shooters using traditional ammunition have caused a decline in the population of raptors. Rather, raptor populations, including the population of bald eagles, continue to steadily rise-a welcome and positive trend that coincides with the longstanding, widespread use of traditional ammunition by sportsmen across America.

NSSF points out that traditional ammunition-the ammunition source that some demonize-is an irreplaceable source of wildlife conservation funding. For more than 80 years, an 11 percent excise tax that manufacturers collect and pay on ammunition sales has supported conservation and habitat-preservation efforts, providing more than $207 million for conservation in 2012 alone. These funds greatly benefit the health and populations of bald eagles.

NSSF, hunters and target shooters have serious concerns about this USFWS study and other misleading reports about traditional ammunition because they can lead to unwarranted calls to ban the use of traditional ammunition, which we vehemently oppose. Advocates of banning traditional ammunition also attempt to cite human health risks, but studies have shown that those who consume game taken with traditional ammunition do not have higher blood lead levels than the national average.

NSSF considers this USFWS study flawed for inferring a connection between bald eagle lead levels and one potential source of lead in the environment-fragments of lead in field-dressed game entrails-that is not supported by the data presented. The authors picked traditional ammunition as a potential source of lead from a list of other potential sources they acknowledge exist (historic mines, Army Depots). Despite a lack of literature about exposure from other sources (lead in landfills, paint and industrial sites), the authors argue these sources are unlikely to be the source of exposure for the eagles in the study and focus solely on ammunition fragments.

The researchers looked at 58 dead eagles. While the study leads with the finding that “Most (60%) of the bald eagles had detectable lead concentrations,” this percentage includes those that were only found to have background levels of lead. Even eagles testing for higher lead levels didn’t universally show the other physical symptoms of lead poisoning that the authors were looking for.

Importantly, this study finds that a minority of eagles in the sample had potentially-lethal lead levels.

As a result of this study, hunters, who have used traditional ammunition for more than a century, are being demonized in media stories. Hunters are the “original conservationists” and do not deserve such treatment.

Hunters have the option of voluntarily switching to costlier alternative ammunition sources or burying or removing entrails.

It’s important to know that wildlife management policy is based on managing population impacts, not on preventing isolated instances of harm to specific individual animals in a species.

Absent sound scientific evidence demonstrating a population impact caused by the use of traditional ammunition, there is no justification for restricting or banning traditional ammunition.

Learn the facts about traditional ammunition here (http://nssf.org/factsheets/PDF/TraditionalAmmo.pdf)


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


  1. Pingback: Federal study: Traditional ammo killing bald eagles. NSSF says no. | The Gun Feed

  2. Robin 'Roblimo' Miller on

    Heh. This sounds like the, “cigarette smoking is good for your health no matter what those government liars say,” propaganda put out by the tobacco industry 30 or 40 years ago or the more recent, “Burning coal is good for your complexion and for the environment,” nonsense the coal mine owners are putting out today.

    Read the report (which is misnamed a “Fact sheet”) and you’ll see this: “A ban on traditional ammunition will affect not only hunters and sportsmen, but also law enforcement, military and target shooters who may never go afield.”

    Oh, please. There are many alternatives to lead in ammunition. And even if you are okay with lead ammunition, which is often the only kind you can get, copper-jacketed bullets foul your barrel a lot less than pure lead ammo. I’d be okay with copper or bronze alloy ammunition if it was readily available.

  3. Response to “Robin Miller” – You are not a sportsman. You are an anti-rights, anti-firearms person. Nothing less. Please do not pose here and think you can pull the wool over our eyes. The same nonsense occurred in California just recently where they banned lead. The flawed study stated condors were at risk because of lead. There was 0 evidence of that. Not to mention, that condors are nothing more than vultures that feed at the dump sites scattered all across the state of California. Where by the way, 80% of the lead in this nation ends up. Who do you know hunts at a dump? No one. The lead is there because of other reasons. Mainly car batteries. If lead was so dangerous, then all car batteries should be banned in California. And if lead ammo was so bad for people, do you think government would allow police, DOJ, Border Patrol, and all other armed agencies to use and carry lead bullets everyday? Get off of our backs and stop stomping on our rights.

    And if you were a true firearms person you would know the ban of lead by government is to force those that have supplies of lead ammo to hand them over, enforce new laws where people that buy “new” bullets will be forced to register those bullets, and to sky rocket costs of ammo by only allowing materials that will be too costly to most people. We can also state that government will ban other types of ammo such as steel shot since it can be considered armor piercing. Go back to your Bloomberg website and leave the rest of us alone.

  4. Robin 'Roblimo' Miller on

    Tony, look at those causes I espouse once more:

    Civil Rights and Social Action
    Economic Empowerment
    Human Rights
    Poverty Alleviation

    So you’re in favor of poverty and racism, and generally don’t want your fellow Americans to live decent lives? Oh my!

    Now about bullets…. I have a substantial stock of lead bullets myself, most of which are copper-coated because that keeps my barrels cleaner than plain lead.

    Metallurgy has advanced quite a bit since the one-piece cartridge was developed. I suspect we could now make leadless bullets, no problem. In fact, some ceramics look pretty interesting. This doesn’t mean we should all toss our lead ammo. But we should be open to alternatives.

    Now, I will happily admit that I am not a “firearms person.” I’m not a tire person, either, although I own more tires than guns. Nor am I a vicegrips person even though I own several pairs of the things.

    I remember when radial tires first hit the U.S. market and some of the fuddier duddies were against them because they didn’t “roll right.” And now we’re going through a lot of nonsense about compact fluorescent bulbs and LEDs versus incandescent bulbs like ol’ grandpa used. And so on. Any change will bring out a bunch of detractors.

    But the rest of try new stuff, some of which works and some of which doesn’t. I’m not sure about the effect of lead bullets or shotgun pellets on birds, aside from the fact that raptors and other birds that feed on other birds are likely to accumulate lead, same as some fish accumulate mercury.

    Happy 21st Century, y’all! 🙂

  5. Perhaps we should compare and contrast the number of provably lead-poisoned raptors to the number of provably windmill-shredded raptors? Might prove illuminating as we troop into Robin’s 21st century….

  6. Response to “Robin Miller” – yes, I am a racist as you state and I support poverty (LOL). Typical response of you lefties. News to you, I grew up in a poor White Family who was also a family of immigrants and a family that served this nation in the military and through their Church and community organizations. Looks who is the racist now.

    BTW – Government procedure for testing.

    1. Fire lead into a carcass.
    2. Feed carcass to a condor.
    3. Day after, fire lead into a carcass.
    4. Feed carcass to the same condor.

    After repeating this over and over again, claim the condor has elevated lead from bullets even though the test scenario would never happen in an infinite universe.

    Response to “The Old Man” – exactly 🙂

  7. Robin 'Roblimo' Miller on

    Tony, since you’re not a racist, why do you consider my belief in civil rights and social action to be negatives? I’m just curious. There are a lot of things in life I don’t understand.

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