Grizzlies feasting on gut piles getting too much lead?

Blood levels of toxic lead are elevated in grizzlies eating the remains of the hunt in the Greater Yellowstone-

Lead in grizzly blood during hunt season. Researcher wonders if preliminary results show a danger to bruins from hunters’ bullets. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.






  1. Mike Avatar

    Yeah disturbing news. The more we study, the more we realize the effects of our actions and the true impact. Who even knows half the effects of the things we spray on yards and farms.

  2. Jon Way Avatar

    I can’t believe lead bullets are even legal when there are and have been alternatives. Really unacceptable… Why take the risk?

  3. Wolfy Avatar

    Seems that not only are we contaminating our wildlife and environment, we are poisoning ourselves with lead ammunition. See the lead advisory from the North Dakota Department of Ag:

    “The North Dakota Health Department on Wednesday told food shelves in the state to throw away some 4,000 pounds of donated venison. The advisory came after Dr. William Cornatzer, a Bismarck physician and hunter, tested 95 packages of ground venison donated to North Dakota food pantries and found the presence of lead fragments in 53 packages.”

    You have to love the denial on the part of Terry Steinwand, director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department:

    “Certainly, it’s a human health issue,” said Terry Steinwand, director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “Do we think it’s going to impact (management)? I guess that remains to be seen. This is such a huge issue, and there are an awful lot of unknowns at this time.”

    At first it’s a huge issue that with a lot of “unknowns” and then its probably not a big deal at all:

    “I’ve been eating venison for 55 years, and it’s a culture in North Dakota,” Steinwand said. “Whether or not it’s an issue compared to something else, who knows? If I were to guess at this point in time, it’s probably not an issue. But that’s an uneducated guess… Is there an impact? Maybe, but I doubt it. Everything’s a risk in life, and this is just one more.”

    If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about state wildlife management, its that “culture” and “tradition” override common sense every time; no matter how stupid and destructive the practice is. Heaven help us from being managed to death by fools.

  4. TC Avatar

    Seems to me there’s little chance you’re “poisoning” yourself with lead ammuntion unless you knowingly consume wildlife either killed with lead bullets or are eating animals in the trophic chain that may be bioaccumulating some level of lead (eat many eagles, coyotes, wolves, grizzly bears, or mountain lions lately?). And if you’re doing either, I assume you’re going into it with eyes open, understanding any perceived or real risks. Ingestion of lead can be detrimental to your health, do you need someone to tell you that? It’s not like they serve hunter-killed deer or elk or pronghorn at the local McDonald’s or Burger King and children are getting lead fragments with their Happy Meals. And, if you are a hunter, you have options regarding ammunition choices. Make them and do your small part. I still use lead on occasion, and I retrieve and recycle bullets and fragments from my carcasses. I don’t use lead for upland birds anymore. Those are small actions I can take. If you’re interested in potential effects of lead in the environment, get on board with hypothesis-driven research and surveillance and make a difference like folks did in the 1960’s and early 1970’s with research and surveillance efforts that produced the federal ban on lead shot for waterfowl hunting. Failing that, compile published research and present it to hunters, sportspeople, and wildlife management agencies and try to educate them so that people learn the risks (if they exist). Don’t just point fingers at wildlife management agencies and call them names. I fail to see how that is helpful or productive. It’s all about personal responsibility and initiative – do you really want the government to control every decision you make? Do you need them to tell you that driving on snowy roads is risky, and if they fail to warn you, is your department of transportation managed by “fools”?

  5. Ryan Avatar

    John, Wolfy,

    We have been using lead to dispatch game animals since the 1500’s. I don’t really believe that there is that big of impact as what has been said here. I am still much more scared to eat hormone injected chicken and other highly farmed meats than natural game this I harves with my rifle. (although most as of late has been taken with a bow).

  6. John d. Avatar
    John d.


    Weighing up the risk of infecting yourself with parasites and disease from wild animals and the potentially damaging effects of the drugs given to farm animals the risk is about even.
    A great deal of the chemicals in the feed of farm animals is to immunise against parasites and disease.

  7. vickif Avatar

    That may be true. SOme of the worst chemical we ingest in food are hormones though. There are studies that suggest that the earlier onset of menses in females, and the early phsical developement, is due to those hormones It used to e that meses beagn in mid to lat teens, and now there are more cases of 6-9 year olds getting periods every year.

    The only way to assure you don’t get parasites is to thoroughly cook meat. The dewormers used to prevent round and tape worms, or to get rid of them, are so harsh (but not as harsh as a parasite burrowing into your body).

    I can say that when I was a kid, we had a neighbor get sick from eating dove and quail…he got lead poisoning from the buck shot…butthat was a very long time ago. People can clean meat, not many animals do.

    Either way, we should really be responsible enough to clean up what we can.

  8. vickif Avatar

    I meant to type ‘it used to be that menses began in mid to late teens.’

  9. Ryan Avatar


    Thats a stretch at best, Most wild game animals do not have parasites. Some exceptions though would be hogs and bears both of which need to be cooked well done. The flip side is that nearly all grocery store beef, dairy products, and poultry products are loaded with Hormones and Pesticides either directly applied or in the food sources. If one takes care of there meat there shouldn’t be a problem with either. As for the grizzlys haveing a bit of lead ingestion, there digestiv track helps them to pass it well I believe. (look at the number of Coyotes, Black bears etc that eat gut piles every year) One of the downsides to solid copper bullets is that they do not carry the kinetic energy that lead bullets do.

  10. John d. Avatar
    John d.

    “As for the grizzly [bears] having a bit of lead ingestion, there digestive track helps them to pass it well I believe.”
    You believe or you know?

    So where do you get your dairy products from Ryan? If you eat bread, fruit and vegetables (as one should) you’re ingesting pesticides as well. And if it was such a great health risk would there not be an investigation of some kind?

  11. John d. Avatar
    John d.

    Wild animals don’t have parasites?
    Fleas, tics, intestinal worms, heart worms…. to name a few.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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