Lead poisoning from the ingestion of spent shotgun pellets has been recognized as an important disease of North American waterfowl since Bellrose's (1959) research >40 years ago. Nation-wide regulations banning the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting were established in 1991. We compared the prevalence of lead exposure in American black ducks (Anas rubripes) wintering on 2 areas in Tennessee before (1986-88) and after the ban (1997-99) to assess the effect of the ban on lead shot on this species. Prevalence of elevated blood lead in black ducks declined by 44% from before (11.7% prevalence) to after (6.5% prevalence) the implementation of non-toxic shot. The reduction in lead exposure was pronounced in adult black ducks (from 14.3% to 5.3%). However, prevalence in lead exposure remained similar in juvenile black ducks (from 8.2% to 8.3%). Additional evidence from lead ingestion and lead poisoning mortality events also indicates that lead exposure has declined in waterfowl in the Mississippi flyway. We believe that lead ingestion will continue to decline, despite the persistence of lead shot in some wetlands. The impact of reduced lead exposure on waterfowl populations needs to be assessed.
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Lead exposure in American black ducks after implementation of non-toxic shot