MADISON — David Clausen was shocked when he X-rayed venison from his home freezer and found that three of the 20 packages showed significant contamination by the lead shot he had used when he killed the deer. “My family eats that venison,” said Clausen, a veterinarian and a member of the state Natural Resources Board.
Clausen shared his experience during a seminar in Madison on Tuesday afternoon hosted by the board, which sets policy for the state Department of Natural Resources. Spearheaded by Clausen, the seminar provided board members a detailed look at a growing concern in the outdoor sporting community.
An increasing number of studies show the use of lead shot in hunting ammunition as well as lead in fishing tackle is causing human illness and leading to the widespread poisoning of nongame animals such as loons and eagles.
Spurred by the presentations from public health and wildlife experts, board members started a conversation that may lead to pilot projects that restrict the use of lead shot and tackle on some state lands, as well as increased education efforts.
Clausen urged the board to “demonstrate leadership and become part of the solution to an issue that is not going to go away.”
While the use of lead shot in waterfowl hunting was banned by the federal government years ago, lead ammunition continues to be used to hunt deer and other game. Lead is also used to make sinkers and other fishing tackle.
Milton Friend, former director of the National Wildlife Health Center and an expert on the issue of lead shot, said there is no question that lead from outdoor sport is a growing health in the environment. He cited studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show eating venison and other game can raise the amount of lead in the human body by as much as 50 percent.
Studies show 30 percent of loon deaths are from poisoning due to the ingestion of lead fishing tackle, such as sinkers, said Julie Langenberg, a veterinarian with the International Crane Foundation.
Friend, who was involved in efforts to ban lead in waterfowl hunting, said the controversy that surrounded the ban showed that the only way ammunition manufacturers will move to the production of nontoxic shot is through regulation.
“The basic question is whether we have the will to provide that incentive,” Friend said.