Voluntary Use of Non-Lead Ammunition

Voluntary Use of Non-Lead Ammunition

National Elk Refuge officials encourage hunters to use non-lead ammunition during the elk and bison seasons. The voluntary use of non-lead ammunition allows hunters a unique opportunity to maintain support for hunting programs by demonstrating a commitment to safe, quality hunting practices that will benefit the long-term conservation of wildlife. The data from the voluntary program will assist with area research projects.

Lead is an environmental toxin well known for its capability to directly impact wildlife. Recently, more attention has been directed to lead poisoning of animals that consume carcasses shot with lead bullets from center fire rifles, such as those commonly used in big-game hunting. Studies by Craighead Beringia South (CBS) have revealed that during the fall hunting season, lead levels spike in the blood of area ravens and eagles in the Jackson Hole valley. These and other studies have shown that fragmented bullets often stay in the discarded remains of wild game and subsequently enter the food chain as they are consumed by other animals. Lead poisoning can result when wildlife species ingest the toxic material left in the discarded remains of game animals.

In 2009, CBS implemented a large educational push for the use of non-lead ammunition, encouraging participants to work with federal agencies and non-profit cooperators in this important wildlife study by voluntarily using non-lead ammunition and reporting that use.

According to information submitted by hunters, 41% of all successful elk hunters taking part in Grand Teton National Park and National Elk Refuge elk reduction programs used non-lead ammunition in 2011, up from 31% in 2010 and 24% in 2009. CBS researchers documented significant declines in bald eagle and raven blood lead levels as a result of hunters using non-lead ammunition. These data strongly support the hypothesis that the number of hunters using lead-free ammunition had a substantial positive impact on lead ingestion by wildlife (as measured in ravens and eagles) during the last three years. More information about CBS research can be found by visiting CBS’s web page at www.beringiasouth.org. Individual research articles include:


 Hunters are not required to use non-lead ammunition while pursuing elk or bison on the National Elk Refuge. This is strictly a voluntary program. However, participating and reporting use allows hunters to work with biologists in gathering critical data that will benefit wildlife health. By reporting non-lead ammunition use at the National Elk Refuge, hunters will provide staff with a means to measure participation in the voluntary program and provide critical data to continue monitoring effects of non-lead ammunition use.