By Chris Robey
A recent federal court ruling determined that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cannot regulate use of lead ammunition, which raises concerns over the effects of spent ammunition on raptors and other wildlife — especially as bald eagles rebound from dwindling populations during the 1960s.
The decision closely follows a government spending bill that blocks the EPA from regulating lead in shot and fishing tackle.
The well-documented link between spent ammunition and lead poisoning in wildlife spurred the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ban lead buckshot for waterfowl hunting in 1991, but lead is still permitted for other types of hunting. Raptors, like waterbirds, are especially vulnerable to lead in the environment; exposure occurs when they eat contaminated fish and carrion or directly consume bullet fragments.
Some experts believe that promoting non-lead alternatives, such as copper bullets, would be more effective than prohibition. Many hunters, however, remain skeptical of these alternatives.