EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — On the theory that what happens in California often drifts north, Oregon wildlife officials are surveying hunters in the state to gauge their opinions about lead ammunition.
By 2019, lead ammunition will be banned in California, which acted to further the recovery of the condor from near extinction.
There's no drive in Oregon to bar lead ammunition, but the question has been contentious in the United States for years. Lead ammunition is blamed for poisoning birds that scavenge animals killed with it.
“We want to make sure that if questions are being asked, that we as an agency have a good feel of what the hunting community thinks so that we can respond with what our hunters are telling us,” said Ron Anglin, wildlife division administrator.
The survey will be mailed to a random sample of 4,200 Oregon hunters, the state has an estimated 250,000. The wildlife department plans a similar survey later of non-hunters in Oregon, Anglin said.
Oregon doesn't regulate lead bullets, the Eugene Register-Guard reports, but since 1991 there has been a federal ban on lead in the shells that waterfowl hunters used in shotguns.
In years since the ban, steel and other variants of shot shells have come onto the market.
Lead ammunition is generally cheaper than the alternatives, and it's often more effective.
“Outside of the toxicity, lead would be the ideal ballistic material, it's cheap, it's everywhere and it's easy to form,” said Ralph Nauman, president of Environ-Metal in Sweet Home.
The company makes a no-lead, nontoxic brand of shot shells made of copper, nickel and iron.
The company has tried to sell bullets without lead but discontinued the line more than a decade ago, he said.
Anglin said several instances of lead poisoning among Oregon birds of prey have been documented, in eastern Oregon and the Portland area.
“When they've done blood tests on them, they found high levels of lead,” he said. “But we don't know what the source of those levels was.”
In Eugene, Executive Director Louise Shimmel of the Cascades Raptor Center said her organization sees one or two instances of lead poisoning each year.
“It's the scavengers, the eagles, the soaring hawks like red-tails, the vultures and ravens, that are going to go for gut piles of things that were shot,” she said.
Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com