Lead and Non-lead Hunting Ammunition: Interagency Working Group Convenes to Address a Complex Problem
In New York, as in many other states, there has been a growing awareness and understanding of the potential negative impacts of lead hunting ammunition. Lead fragments left behind after a big game animal is harvested can remain in the meat, carcass, and within the gut pile exposing scavenging wildlife and people to lead via consumption.
DEC has been encouraging deer hunters to try non-lead ammunition for several years, but as most hunters know, ammunition of any kind is hard to come by right now. While the current ammunition shortage won’t last forever, it does illustrate the complexity of this issue and the challenge we face in trying to minimize the risks to wildlife and people from lead bullet fragments. Wildlife and human health risks, cost, availability and demand for non-lead alternatives, and the needs, interests, and concerns of hunters, conservationists, and people who eat game all need to be taken into consideration.
This issue has been gaining a lot of attention nationally and internationally, with some jurisdictions restricting use of lead ammunition for big game and others setting up educational campaigns or incentive programs to increase understanding of the issue and promote a transition from lead to non-lead ammunition. To tackle this issue, DEC recently initiated a working group that brings together a variety of interest groups to conduct a comprehensive examination of the risks posed by lead hunting ammunition to wildlife and people in New York. The working group includes representatives from DEC, the New York State Department of Health, Cornell University’s Wildlife Health Program, and organized hunting and conservation groups. The group seeks first to thoroughly understand the issue and identify and engage key interest groups to understand their concerns. Then, after the comprehensive review and by December 31, 2021, DEC and the working group will develop recommendations to minimize the risks posed by lead in the environment from hunting ammunition and communicate this information to key interest groups and the public.