Thursday, September 30, 2010


Having spent 7 months crossing the United States, enjoying its parks, its beauty, great stretches of  barely inhabited land, fields full of grain, tree fruits, nuts, berries, beautiful lakes, bridges... what a great country this is. Puzzling, though, we sometimes  parked  near a pond or woods and did not see or hear a bird or an insect. Strange. Not even a mosquito.
 Sightings of wild animals in the South and West were better, but even then, mostly in protected parks. In the East where population is denser, we saw squirrels, chipmunks, foxes, and deer. Frogs only in protected gardens.

 Underneath all this visible beauty survival is precarious for jaguars, Florida panthers, many birds, whales, turtles...the list seems endless. But one danger, we can do something about easily. The Center for Biological Diversity offered this thoughtful science to hunters, and gun users everywhere. Lead ammunition puts humans and wildlife at risk. That surprised me.

California condors were brought back from the brink of extinction starting with efforts in 1996 at a tremendous cost. These majestic birds began dying at unusually high rates since their heroic rescue. Scientific studies traced it to lead poisoning from hunting and fishing. Condors are carrion eaters and just one abandoned lead ridden carcass or gut pile can poison several birds and cause death. Other scavengers, Owls, hawks, eagles and vultures are impacted. Small birds  mistake lead pellets or fishing tackle for grit or seed. Birds at risk  include pheasant, grouse, songbirds, waterfowl and wading birds, as well as golden eagles, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, peregrine falcons, all are poisoned by lead if they encounter it. People who eat deer and elk or other game shot with lead ammunition are ingesting tiny fragments of lead from shattered bullets. Fragments  too small for the human eye to see.  Lead is a neurotoxin that affects children at very low levels.
For hunters and fishermen, its an easy fix. Choose lead free bullets and tackle. Lead ammo has been banned in California. It doesn't ban hunting or fishing, just the lead. So, if you get a chance to support a vote for banning lead bullets in your state, support it. Then we can always appreciate these gorgeous beauties.

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