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Lane County Audubon is working with partners across the state to develop an Oregon Bird-Friendly Community Certification program, which also includes the Non-Lead Ammunition campaign detailed below. Habitat Haven is equally integral to that work. The combined programs recognize the important role local communities can play as they create, restore, and protect habitat for birds, work to reduce threats to birds, and provide opportunities for stewardship, education, and nature-focused activities to engage community members.

Bird populations across the United States, on the Pacific Flyway and in Oregon are in trouble.

Nearly 500 species of wild birds utilize Oregon for some portion of their life cycle, and many of these birds pass through our cities and towns. The programs are designed to support communities in creating local coalitions to support avian conservation activities. We are working to form our coalition in Eugene and start moving toward official designation as one of Oregon’s Bird-Friendly Communities. 

Stay tuned for our announcement and more information coming soon. We are putting in place many programs, including the Non-Lead Ammunition campaign detailed below, that support efforts to protect birds in addition to our Lights Out program.

The Case for Non-lead Ammunition

By LCAS Board Member Barbara Bryson

Dr. Ulrike Streicher is the veterinarian at Eugene’s Cascades Raptor Center. On a cool March morning, I spoke with her at the Raptor Center, while an American Kestrel watched us from her aviary.

When larger raptors come to the clinic and are ill, they get a blood test for lead. “About 80 percent of the raptors we see have subclinical lead exposure,” said Dr. Streicher. A subclinical exposure means that there is a level of lead in the blood that, while not critical, is not normal. When lead is at a toxic level, it causes neurological symptoms, such as lethargy, disorientation, difficulty seeing, and muscle incoordination. For toxic cases, chelation—a procedure using oral or injectable medicine—is the only way to remove lead from the sick bird. Without treatment, lead poisoning typically results in starvation, convulsions, and death. Sometimes lead poisoning causes permanent heart damage, or visual problems that, even with treatment, prevent a bird’s release into the wild.

Subclinical levels may cause birds to fly and see with less precision, and they may produce eggs with thin shells or chicks with deformities. Lead doesn’t leave the body, even though blood levels drop over time. Lead accumulates in bones, affecting a bird’s ability to survive.

Why are raptors, scavengers, and other wildlife suffering from lead exposure?  Animals that eat the offal (gut pile) left behind in the field by hunters after an animal is shot are susceptible to lead poisoning from lead bullets that shatter on impact, leaving behind 500 or more microscopic particles of lead. It may take only a few particles to sicken an eagle. Most of the particles are not visible to the naked eye, but can be seen in an x-ray.

Many hunters care deeply about wildlife and have switched to non-lead ammunition. Organizations like the Non-Lead Hunting Education program and Sporting Lead Free are run by hunters who encourage using non-lead ammunition. Raptors are not the only animals protected when non-lead bullets are used.

Hunters and their families who consume game shot with lead ammunition may also suffer dire consequences. There is no safe level of lead in children and pregnant women. Children exposed to even small amounts of lead during gestation, nursing, or game-meat consumption may develop cognitive impairment and behavioral issues due to the effect of lead on their developing brains. Pregnant women may miscarry or deliver developmentally abnormal babies.

Lane Audubon is making an effort to work with these organizations in promoting lead-free ammunition in our area. As Dr. Streicher noted, when talking to hunters, “It’s important to speak from a positive angle, and not sound anti-hunting.” If you know any hunters, encourage them to look into one of the following hunting organizations: oregon zoo non-lead hunting education program; sporting lead