Every year, many animals and birds risk being poisoned by ammunition that contains lead.
Starting Dec. 20, Natural Resources staff will stop using lead ammunition when they put an animal down. The ammunition will be collected and turned over to the RCMP for disposal.
“This is the right thing to do; there is enough evidence showing that animals are being affected by lead poisoning. They eat the remains of animals left by law-abiding hunters and swallow small lead fragments,” said Natural Resources Minister Zach Churchill.
The department’s summary of hunting regulations says lead bullets tend to break up after entering an animal, spreading metal slivers up to 46 centimetres away from the bullet’s visible path. Scavengers such as eagles and foxes eat the remains of animals that have been shot. The lead slivers they swallow enter their blood stream and cause brain,nerve, digestive and respiratory damaage.
Wildlife veterinarian Helene Van Doninck has long advocated not using lead ammunition, largely based on her experience treating lead-poisoned eagles. She operates the non-profit Cobequid Rehabilitation Centre in Hilden, Colchester Co., which cares for sick, injured or orphaned wildlife.
“I commend the department’s initiative to reduce the impact of fragmenting lead ammunition on the health of Nova Scotia wildlife,” said Dr. Van Doninck. “Any effort to decrease the risk of lead poisoning is a huge step in the right direction.”
There are several readily available alternatives such as steel, tungsten or copper ammunition.
“The Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters is committed to educating our members about the dangers posed by lead ammunition and we will continue to encourage them to choose safer alternatives,” said Tony Rodgers, the federation’s executive director.
The province has not seen conclusive evidence linking lead fragmentation in large game animals to lead poisoning in humans, but that does not mean there is no risk.