Lead (Pb) is a heavy metal that is not naturally available to wildlife. It is a neurotoxin and metabolic poison and when ingested or inhaled and can negatively affect animals in multiple ways.
One of the ways animals, including golden eagles and other scavenging wildlife, ingest lead is through feeding on the remains of animals that have been shot with lead ammunition.
To study if the use of non-lead ammunition reduces eagle deaths, CSG has launched a new program called Hunters for Eagle Conservation to provide hunters in participating states with free or reduced-cost non-lead ammunition.
Wind energy development has increased substantially in recent years and multiple additional facilities are currently in the pre-development phase. One species that is at risk of being negatively impacted by increased wind energy production is the golden eagle. The placement of wind turbines often overlap with golden eagle habitat resulting in mortalities by direct collision. In response to this problem, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) instituted a policy of “no net loss” for this species.
If the number of golden eagles that die as a direct result of wind development are greater than zero, mitigation methods must be implemented to reduce eagle deaths as compensation. The only currently accepted and broadly used mitigation technique is retrofitting power poles. Both the USFWS and the wind industry have expressed the need to increase the number of acceptable mitigation methods. Lead poisoning is a significant source of golden eagle mortality and the primary cause is thought to be the ingestion of bullets fragments in the offal of harvested game animals.
We recently received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to test the efficacy of using a non-lead ammunition distribution program as an effective and quantifiable mitigation technique.
We are distributing non-lead ammunition to hunters in southeast Wyoming. We are then quantifying the number of game animals harvested with non-lead ammunition and finally, estimating the reduction in golden eagle moralities. At project completion, we will be able to quantify costs to save eagles and provide the USFWS with a scientifically defensible framework to offset golden eagle moralities using non-lead ammunition.
To serve the community and protect the ecosystem of Park and Sweet Grass counties, we will develop a collaborative framework to reduce the prevalence of toxic lead fragments in big game offal left by successful big game hunters. This will provide a healthier foraging environment for eagles and other wildlife, while maintaining the robust big game hunting activities known to this region of the state. We aim to showcase bald and golden eagles as an iconic emblem of this unique, intact landscape by initiating a monitoring program of eagle activity (nesting and foraging) at AMB West’s Paradise Valley ranches. Additionally, we aim to improve wildlife habitat quality in the region by reducing lead on the landscape through development and implementation of a non-lead ammunition voucher program. The voucher program will encourage and jumpstart a long-term transition away from lead ammunition to non-lead alternatives by hunters throughout Park and Sweet Grass counties.
We will be building a website specifically for the distribution vouchers for discounted non-lead ammunition for licensed big game hunters in Park and Sweet Grass Counties, Montana. Please check back soon for more details on this program.
AMB West Philanthropies of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
The American Eagle Foundation