Despite Lead Concerns, Bald Eagles Have Made Come Back

There’s been a long and drawn out attack on hunting for years. Anti-hunting or anti-gun activists have targeted lead ammunition as a way to make hunting and shooting more expensive and more legally complicated. Late in his term, President Obama even made it a goal to ban all lead ammunition within five years. Now, there’s another push to ban lead ammunition, saying that the traditional hunting ammunition is killing American Bald Eagles. But are lead bullets really killing the symbol of American freedom? Larry Keane, President and CEO of the NSSF offered this update on the plight of the American Bald Eagle and the use of lead hunting ammunition:

Of Eagles, Chicken Littles and Snipe Hunts

Bald Eagles have made a comeback in recent years.
Ever been invited on a snipe hunt? If you have or don’t know about a snipe hunt, politely smile and walk away. If you’re unfamiliar with this particular hunt, it’s a hunt for a quarry that doesn’t exist.

We’ve been invited on a few of these lately and have politely declined. Mostly, they’ve been invitations from well-meaning environmentalist-types whose hearts, we’d like to believe, are in the right place. But they’re sounding like Chicken Little who thinks the sky is falling.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has been busy shooting down misinformation that’s been flying in news reporting that traditional ammunition is the leading threat to the recovery of the American bald eagle. It’s been a long-simmering issue, but gained new life when environmental activists seized on it when the Obama administration moved to ban all traditional lead ammunition on all federal lands within five years. Director’s Order 219 was published on the final full day of the administration.

The opposition began their clucking when Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke rode into town on a horse (literally) and as his first act, rolled back the order. His order stated the obvious. The ban was done without a law and without consultation with affected stakeholders, most importantly the sportsmen and women who hunt, fish and shoot recreationally.

Since then, there have been ruffled feathers that successful eagle recovery is on the brink because of lead-based ammunition. They’re scratching at every bit of information. One news organization actually crowed about the record number of 323 nesting eagle pairs in New York, while a partnered news outlet cried foul saying lead ammunition is the biggest threat to eagles. Many reports quote raptor rescue centers that are treating sick birds. But that’s not the eagle-eye view.
NSSF Logo
America’s eagle populations are soaring. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are 10,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. Alaska holds another 40-50,000. Eagle populations are so strong that the federal government removed them from the endangered species list in 1995 and further removed from the threatened wildlife list in 2007. This is a recovery success story that has involved hunters’ contributions by supporting firearms and ammunition sales that have paid over $11 billion into the Pittman-Robertson excise tax that supports conservation programs.

If you want to find sick people, look in hospitals. If you want to find sick eagles, look at rescue centers. The rescue centers tell us if eagles are to flood our skies, we need to ban all lead-based ammunition. Calls to ban traditional ammunition aren’t always about saving another eagle. Many times, they’re really about banning hunting – a tradition and way of life for many.

Chicken Little, the sky is still up there. There are more eagles in our skies than ever.

What do you think? Should lead ammunition be banned from federal lands? Tell us what you think in the comment section

11 Comments On This Article

  1. I live literally across the street of the city limits of a medium size city in N.E. Ohio on the remnants of a multi-generation family farm.
    There is a federally recognized bald eagle nesting site less than a 1/4 mile from my home.
    It’s been regularly producing baby eagles for nearly 20 years.
    In the other direction, in the midst of a cow pasture is another nest sight. It has been viable for an excess of 6 years. Again, less that 1/4 mile away.
    Bald eagles fly over and around my home daily. It is uncommon that I -DON’T- get to watch one or more hunting & perching on any given morning/afternoon/evening.
    The population of Bald eagles, osprey, several different species of hawk, falcons, and a couple species of owl are living and expanding appreciably in my immediate neighborhood, and only a half dozen miles from downtown Canton,Ohio (Pro-football hall-of-fame city)!

  2. Right now, the greatest threat to Eagles, raptors and scavengers are bird and bat chomping wind turbines and concentrated solar collectors.

    Entered into an online argument with an activist a couple years ago. The activist was involved in a project to lure and capture eagles for lead poisoning testing.

    Said activist refused all comments that their assumptions and capture process skewed which eagles were captured and what their test results actually mean.

    Activist obsessed that bullets were the only possible lead supply. When it was pointed out that lead tire weights were common and conveniently located near road kills, he literally refused the possibility.

    Nor is their “bullet fragments in gut piles” rational.
    Bullets used for larger game are not explosive fragmenting bullets. Plus the heavier bullets often exit the game animal.

    Varmints that are shot with fragmenting bullets are disposed of. High speed fragmenting bullets tend to shred into tiny fragments that pass through digestion systems rather than end up in a bird’s crop as grind stones.

  3. Wind farms kill thousands of eagles annually. The EPA only counts those within 60 feet or so of tower, so numbers grossly undercounted.

  4. Provide one stitch of evidence. That’s all I have to say! Not 2 miles away from a gun range for competitive shooting on Arcadia, OK, there is a lake with record numbers of naturally occurring bald eagles. No conservative efforts other than stopping idiots from shooting them.

    That’s the only way lead kills an eagle. At 2000fps!

  5. It is starting to look like the greatest threat to eagles and other birds of prey is the wind farms. They are killing birds of prey, bats and all species of birds at an alarming rate (hundreds of thousands a year). I don’t hear any environments whining about that. google “wind farms killing birds by the thousands” if you doubt me.
    The government is giving them a pass but let you or me just posses an eagle feather and we are going to jail.

  6. I do a lot of ground squirrel shooting in Northern CA and No. NV. The areas I shoot are very infested with the pests and it’s common to kill 300 to 400 each in a 6 hour session. Birds feast on the carcasses….hawks, eagles, vultures, crows, seagulls etc. I’ve seen upwards of 75 birds having breakfast the next morning after a shoot and have never seen any birds that appear sick. Ive asked every farmer and rancher I’ve come in contact with if they have seen any decline in the raptor populations and every one of them say there are more raptors now than ever. The science is flawed.

  7. I’ve never heard so many puns in a paragraph 😊Lol!
    The only way lead is going to harm an eagle Is if you shoot it 🦅
    That shooter would be in a world of hurt from me…..

  8. Someone had ouhht to tell the eaglrs of Utah that no matter that for last 6years theirv numbers of dead and dying found by people yheir numbrrs are increasing.
    Nesting pairs are just hiding bettrr?, and they just moved from traditoonal areas to maybe large ciyy garbage dumps.
    Smallest county and two neihjboring counties habe eahle counting days those lazy ragles being carrion and garbage junkies nevrr cross a county border duting couning days,
    no real increase in eahle counts, for you all to note a baby eagle, eaglet remains with parents for 2-3 years, and the females are largrr than males and do not lay or get laid evrry year.
    The only time a game fuzz gets out of truck is too piss or eat pizza.
    The west coast from Nortern Cali to tip of Wasjington Stste has been undergoing massive die offs of all sea life with millions of tons of dead fish that birds will not touch and millions of sea birds, crutations smelt salmon anvhobirs floating belly up.
    This includes over a thousand whales dead on shore with no count of sea floatrs. SEALS , SEA LIONS BIRDS MUSDLES CLAMS AND STARGISH JUST DISAPEARED AND WHEN FOUND HAVE EMPTY GUTS AND TUMORS.
    The murres died by millions and when they ,for first time ever flew to Salt Lake Utah and died the UTAH game peoples said the reason for so many dead eagles was that they were eating dead murels..
    We have been duck humting lead free and still duck and geese numbers declining, maybe it is that mythical increase of Eagles that ate them.

  9. Great bird gor national symbol, carrion eatrrs that favor garbage deer and elk guts.
    I have seen single ravens beat the hell out of eagles and a few times jays, owls and even swallows pestrr then for miles.
    An ambush hunter and dares not nest in osprey lands.
    Chicken of the skies.

  10. Bald and golden eagles and osprey are NOT affected by lead based ammo. For over 30 years I have shot ground squirrels in north eastern Ca. And watched these birds proliferate….They and crows and ravens and coyotes flood the fields after a shoot to eat the remains and still seem to be on the increase. They either do not eat the lead in the bullets or do not ingest it or pass it.

  11. Sick eagles have high lead content in their bodies because they are lacking in calcium. A healthy animal (or human) with enough calcium in their diet and bodies won’t take up lead.

    Another question, why aren’t coyotes and wolves dying from lead poisoning? They get to gut piles and such much faster than eagles. Or other scavengers like turkey buzzards, vultures, ravens, etc.? The tree-huggers cry about eagles and condors because they get politically more attention.

    The big commercial wind and solar generating units kill more birds than lead poisoning every year.

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