Sightings of large mammals such as bears, moose, mountain lions, and wolves have become increasingly common as of late. Many Iowans are beginning to wonder what would change if the mammals established breeding populations within the state.
Officials in the Upper Mississippi River U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge will meet today in Prairie du Chien, Wis., to discuss recent findings which link dying bald eagles and lead ammunition.
Beginning in 2011, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists Ed Britton, Sarah Warner, Mike Coffey and Drew Becker collected dead bald eagles from Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin. After testing the livers of 168 dead birds, they found that 48 percent came back with detectable lead concentrations. 21 percent had lethal amounts of lead, indicating lead poisoning.
The lead most likely came from the carcasses of wild game left behind by hunters using lead ammunition. According to a fact sheet by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, eagles frequently scavenge deer and pheasant carcasses, many of which contain lead fragments left behind by hunters who cleaned the carcasses on-site and left behind gut piles which may contain lead fragments. High amounts of lead can be lethal, and non-lethal exposure can cause vision and respiratory problems, leading to secondary trauma.
Lead is currently the most popular material used in shotgun ammunition because it is dense, inexpensive, readily available and soft enough not to damage vintage gun barrels, a common problem with steel ammunition. Fortunately, companies in the hunting and shooting industry have already created several non-toxic alternatives, including Tungsten-Matrix, which has nearly the same density and softness as lead, key factors hunters look for when choosing ammunition.
The meeting today in Prairie du Chien is part of a series of information sessions being held in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Quad Cities over the course of two weeks. For more information on these meetings and the effects of lead on bald eagles, visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
For the first time since the mid-1990’s, the DNR reported that Iowa’s deer harvest has dropped below 100,000. In 2013, hunters reported 99,406 deer.
This indicates a positive response from hunters when asked to reduce the size of the herd, but now the DNR is encouraging hunters to work with landowners and base their harvest on local herd conditions.
Deer hunting provides an economic impact of almost $214 million, paying more than $15 million in federal taxes and nearly $15 million in state taxes. It also supports 2,800 jobs and provides more than $67 million in earnings.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is training volunteers around Iowa to help monitor the state’s wildlife.
The volunteers will get trained in February, March and April to monitor either raptors and colonial waterbirds or frogs and toads.
Monitoring these populations can indicate issues with different wildlife habitats. For instance, the frogs and toads depend on clean water, so a decline in their population may indicate a lack of clean water sources.
For more information on the training sessions, click here.