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It’s Easy to get the Lead Out!

Hunting Regulations Icon New York Hunting

Follow these “Best Practices” to Minimize the Exposure of Wildlife to Lead

Lead-based ammunition has been in use for good reason since firearms were first developed. The characteristics of lead, (heavy, dense, moldable and expandable on impact) make it well suited as a projectile. Because of the high speed that bullets travel from modern center-fire rifles, lead-based bullets expand rapidly upon impact, and fragment to varying degrees related to design features. While effective in taking game, these small fragments can harm or kill wildlife that consume carcasses or parts left behind in the field. Lead bullets and slugs from muzzle-loading firearms and shotguns fragment less due to a lower muzzle velocity, but still leave behind traces of lead. To date, there are no reported human illnesses related to the consumption of wild game shot with lead ammunition. Nevertheless, lead is still a known neurotoxin. Hunters should consider potential exposure risks from the consumption of lead fragments and make educated decisions to limit the chances of lead exposure.

Alternatives to lead bullets (typically copper) are designed to expand well on impact and retain their weight far better. As a result, performance is excellent and concerns about lead are eliminated. Consider these “best practices” to minimize the risk of harming wildlife that may feed on lead-contaminated carcasses.

  • Choose non-lead bullets and shot as an alternative. Excellent performance, increased availability and cost equivalent to premium lead-based ammunition make non-lead alternatives worth a closer look.
  • Remove carcasses and gut piles from the field. Small game animals can be easily removed from the field and skinned/prepared for the table at home. Although slightly more difficult, furbearing mammal hunters can also expend a little more effort to remove whole carcasses from the field.
  • Deer and bear present a challenge to complete carcass/gut pile removal due to their size, but where transportation is available nearby, consider removing the entire carcass for field dressing where disposal in the waste stream can be accomplished.
  • “Gut Piles” from deer and bear dressed in the field can be secured in a heavy plastic bag or tarp and removed for disposal. Where this is not possible a gut pile can be buried to reduce visual attraction by scavengers to this potential source of lead poisoning.
  • If you trap or maintain a trail camera for wildlife observation, don’t use lead bullet-killed carcasses or scraps as a bait or wildlife attractant. Use alternative baits or lures for these purposes.

These simple practices to minimize the exposure of wildlife to lead can be used by hunters taking game during an open season or by landowners removing an animal causing property damage. The extra effort required may seem unwarranted at the time, but knowing that you may have spared the preventable death of an animal you did not intend to kill makes the effort worthy of strong consideration. As hunters and conservationists, simple steps to protect the wildlife that enriches our lives is indeed a best practice. It’s easy to get the lead out!

For more information, visit the DEC website:

Non-Lead Ammunition for…

• Good Hunting
• Improved Conservation
• High-Quality Meat
• Safer Consumption