CORVALLIS – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State University are collaborating on an effort to survey Oregon hunters about their use and knowledge of lead ammunition.
The random sample of 4,200 Oregon hunters will begin later this month and those selected should receive a letter from ODFW within the next two weeks. Oregon has approximately 250,000 hunters and the survey will include hunters from each geographic region of the state.
The use of lead ammunition has become a national issue because of impacts to wildlife and human health concerns, according to Ron Anglin, ODFW Wildlife Division administrator. Last year, California passed a law banning the use of lead ammunition for all hunting in the state beginning in 2019; other states have adopted voluntary measures encouraging the use of ammunition made from alternative compounds.
“There is no proposal to ban or limit use of lead ammunition in Oregon, but developments outside of Oregon could affect the use of lead ammunition within the state,” Anglin said. “The Environmental Protection Agency was petitioned to ban the use of lead in ammunition on a nationwide basis and there is the potential of condors being restored in northern California.”
The California legislature passed a law banning lead ammunition to protect endangered California condors, according to Dana Sanchez, an OSU Extension wildlife specialist and one of the project leaders. Condors can become ill after scavenging on animals that have been killed by lead bullets. The birds ingest lead fragments and can become sick or die, she said.
“Historically, Oregon has had condors, though none are known to live here now,” Sanchez pointed out. “However, there are efforts to re-establish populations in northern California and if they are successful, it is only a matter of time before condors begin frequenting the southern portions of Oregon.”
“Once condors appear in Oregon, they would be subject to federal protection under the Endangered Species Act,” she added.
Sanchez said some conservation organizations in the state are monitoring lead levels in birds of prey brought into wildlife rehabilitation centers. There is increasing concern that lead exposure may be causing impacts to raptors and eagles in some areas, she said.
“This could lead to an initiative or other efforts to eliminate or restrict the use of lead ammunition,” Sanchez said.
The survey was developed by the OSU Survey Research Center, which will collect the data for ODFW and the OSU Wildlife Extension program. Survey results will be used to inform discussions among agencies, groups and others about any potential restrictions in the use of lead ammunition.
The purpose of the survey, Anglin said, is to gather information from the group of stakeholders who would be most affected by any restrictions on lead ammunition – Oregon hunters.
“Ideally, we would like to survey all Oregon hunters, but that is expensive,” Anglin said. “However, by selecting a random sample of hunters from regions across the state, we should get a clear picture of how Oregon hunters feel about lead ammunition and possible alternatives.”
Anglin said the ODFW/OSU project team plans to conduct a similar survey of non-hunting Oregonians in the future.