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NPS Arrowhead National Park Service
US Department of the Interior
Office of Public Health 1201 Eye Street, NW
Room 1131
Washington, DC 20005

Phone: 202-513-7215
Fax: 202-371-1349
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Risks to Wildlife and Human Health Related to Ingestion of Lead Bullet Fragments
Pinnacles National Park 2010

Points Of Contact
(202) 513-7217
Assistant to Director for Science
(202) 513-7097
(505) 248-7806
Assistant to Director for Field Operations
(202) 513-7056
National Capitol Region
Northeast Region
(215) 597-5371
Southeast Region
(404) 507-5730
Mid-West Region
(402) 661-1718
Intermountain Region
(505) 988-6040
Pacific West Region
(510) 817-1375
Alaska Region
(206) 220-4270

Project summary

This project was initiated to develop outreach materials related to the risks to wildlife and humans associated with the use of lead ammunition.  The messages were intended to reach a broad audience of hunters and ranchers who have traditionally used lead-based bullets in their shooting activities, as well as folks who don’t hunt, but still have the opportunity to consume game meat shot with lead bullets.  The outreach efforts built upon relatively new information that has become available in the last few years that has documented how inadvertent ingestion of lead bullet fragments harms wildlife and places human health at risk.  A variety of media types was used including: launching a new website, producing informative tri-fold brochures and posters, posting a detailed video that describes the problem and solution, and developing a PowerPoint presentation suitable for interpretive rangers to deliver to visitors.  The materials developed from the funding for this project will form the basis for launching a new NRPP project in FY2011-12 aimed at reaching visitors and the public surrounding those NPS units which allow hunting and/or fishing activities.

Measurable outcomes of the project
Many innovative outreach products were produced as a result of the funding received that include:

1.  Why Nonlead Bullets Tri-fold Brochure
This brochure is meant for desks and countertops where information is made available to visitors or as a handout for attendees to Ranger-led interpretive walks.
Why Nonlead Bullets Tri-fold Brochure – Page 1

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Why Nonlead Bullets Tri-fold Brochure – Page 2

2.  Keep Wildlife and Your Family Safe – Use Non-lead Bullets
This is a poster that is meant to be displayed within park facilities such as Visitor Centers, multi-agency Information Centers, or in public-posting areas within gateway communities.

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3.  Development of a new website (

This website was launched to help disseminate a wide variety of information pertaining to the issues associated with the “Lead Bullet Issue.”   Our hope was to give the hunting public a place where they could go to research more about the issue and help them decide for themselves if they wish to switch to non-lead ammo.  We chose to make the website unaffiliated with any State or Federal agency to try to foster a greater acceptance of that segment of the public that is skeptical of efforts to restrict use of lead bullets in hunting activities.

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4.  Develop presentation materials for interpretive rangers

This PowerPoint presentation demonstrated below is intended for delivery by interpretive staff, biologists, or management that wish to explain to the audience in detail why lead bullets are harmful to wildlife.  And, by extension, if wildlife can inadvertently ingest lead and get sick by eating animals shot with lead bullets, it is entirely plausible that people are also at risk when they eat venison that has been shot with lead bullets.  The x-ray below of the neck of a deer shows the numerous, small lead fragments that resulted from the deer being shot with a lead bullet.  Just seeing this one graphic has been enough to convince some people to switch to non-lead bullets.

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5.  Marketing Analysis

We solicited input from a private marketing consultant on messaging approaches to use to best reach visitors via interpretive outreach materials (full list of suggestions are in appendix).  Briefly, she suggested that we emphasize the plight that lead bullets cause wildlife such as our national symbol, the bald eagle.  Consequently, we included photos and reference to bald eagles in our printed and visual media.  In addition, for the human dimension, she thought that targeting mothers would be more receptive to a message relating to putting clean food on the table.  We used this idea also in the wording on the printed material.

6.  Informational Film/Video

A film titled, The Hidden Menace, was submitted to the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana and received an Honorable Mention for Scientific Content.  The piece explores in detail the issue surrounding lead bullet fragmentation and risks to wildlife and human health from eating meat shot with lead bullets.  While attending the International Wildlife Film Festival, Jim also helped promote a Public Service Announcement that had been produced by the local Hollister High School in cooperation with Pinnacles National Park.   (Both of these travel-related trips were conducted without incurring actual travel costs)

7.  Participation in Scientific Studies

Jim Petterson attended a meeting with the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) as a participant on a panel of subject matter experts.  The purpose of the meeting was to provide input as to the design of a study that will be done in Wisconsin to determine if people who have eaten white-tailed deer shot with lead bullets results in higher blood lead levels than those who do not.  This effort is a very high visibility study that will be closely watched by many in the hunting and wildlife/human health arena.

How did this project impact the park, the participants?
Certain aspects of this project will continue in 2011 and 2012, with the initiation of the NRPP Project, titled, Get the Lead Out: Gain Support for Non-Lead Hunting Practices.  Namely, the various outreach materials developed during the course of the currently funded project will be deployed in and around various NPS units.  As such, the actual impacts of sharing and applying the outreach materials won’t be assessed until into the future.  However, based on comments that were left on the website, it appears that this approach has targeted a critical need:

H. Greene - This is straightforward: copper ammo for my old open sights .30-30 performed perfectly--two shots, two deer. Nothing but copper for me from now on, for any weapon, any purpose!

M. Silman - Anyone who sees the x-rays on the bullet fragmentation page will think long and hard about shooting lead. I shot copper last year and the round performance in the deer was far superior. Not to mention the benefits of not poisoning your family, friends, and wildlife. Everyone else I talked to who hunted it had the same experience: great accuracy, better down-range performance.

D. Hillis - Thanks for this excellent site, full of relevant information. Our hunting group made the switch to copper bullets last year, and we found them to perform much better than lead. We experienced no detectable change in accuracy (in a wide variety of calibers), no fouling problems, and the most effective performance on game animals that we have seen with any bullets, from deer to tough wild hogs. Copper bullets are just better bullets. The fact that they don't leave lead fragments in meat or carcasses is also a great benefit, but anyone who wants better bullet performance should switch to copper ammo.

J. Moore - It's about time some action is taken on this issue. Good job!! Also, you should look into lead pellets for airguns and how dangerous they are. I know some countries have already ban lead BBs for fowl hunting.

D. Tweed - In the State of Oregon: It is illegal to hunt with jacketed bullets, sabots and bullets with plastic or synthetic bases during muzzleloader-only seasons.

While it may be possible to use patched Balls made of something other than Lead, Conicals are out unless there is something that is soft enough to Ram while it is being engraved by the Rifling.  Concerning Solid Copper Bullets, They Foul the Bore much more than just about anything else.

P. Loughlin - Nice work so far, fellas! Lots of good information, and presented in a pretty balanced way. Just the facts, no editorializing. I like it.

Lessons learned (what worked, what didn't work)

We found that emphasizing bald eagles worked well while trying to highlight the negative wildlife-related impacts from using lead bullets.  Many of the hunters we contacted were completely unaware that bald eagles and other scavengers could be affected by their use of lead bullets.  Since for many of them, the symbolic nature of the bald eagle held a special spot in their patriotism, they felt more compelled to switch to a form of ammunition that did not adversely affect eagles; much more so than if we had emphasized California condors and other vultures.  Also, seeing the x-rays of bullet fragments in deer and other wildlife, hit home just how much the lead bullets fragment.  If ever a picture was worth a thousand words, the x-rays were it.  And by extension, when hunters and their wives saw the bullet fragments in x-rays of packages of ground venison, they associated the plights of scavengers that picked up lead fragments with the possibility of them feeding their families food that had been tainted with lead.

As the outreach materials developed during this project are applied during the upcoming NRPP-funded Lead Awareness campaign, we expect that we will learn what aspects need to be modified to better reach the intended audiences.  Thus far, however, the approach we have taken that incorporated many different media types (web, video, PowerPoint, posters/brochures, demonstration shooting events) appears to be reaching folks effectively.

Will this project continue after this year?
Efforts will continue in 2011 and beyond that build upon the experiences gained from the currently funded project.  The outreach materials will be modified and optimized based on feedback received from visitors and interaction with the hunting public.

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