OLYMPIA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has received a donation of 10 portable scanning devices to help combat any illegal use of lead shot by waterfowl hunters.
The Trumpeter Swan Society purchased 10 "Hot Shot" scanners for WDFW enforcement officers at a cost of more than $1,700. The hand-held devices can test the metal content in a shotgun shell in less than five seconds, providing enforcement officers with quick verification of a hunter's ammunition.
The use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting has been illegal in Washington state since 1989. Waterfowl hunters are required to use one of the alternatives to lead shot, including steel, tungsten or bismuth shot.
Spent lead shot, either from past deposition or illegal use has been responsible for killing more than 1,400 trumpeter swans and tundra swans in northwest Washington in the past five years.
The new shotgun shell scanners will be put to use immediately, said WDFW Deputy Enforcement Chief Bill Jarmon.
"We appreciate The Trumpeter Swan Society's initiative in working with us to provide this donation," Jarmon said. "While we believe the overwhelming majority of waterfowl hunters are using legal shell loads, there are still a handful of hunters that use lead shot, and this poses a threat to the health of our environment, particularly waterfowl."
Martha Jordan, Washington state swan working group chair for The Trumpeter Swan Society, said she hopes hunting groups will match this donation of shotgun shell scanners.
"Lead is toxic to all life, and I urge everyone who uses a shotgun for hunting, target practice or for training sporting dogs to use nontoxic shot," Jordan said.
Spent lead shot is inadvertently picked up along with pebbles that waterfowl use in their gizzard to help digest grain and other food. Lead poisoning can quickly kill a bird once the soft metal is worn down inside the bird's crop and enters the bloodstream. As few as three lead pellets can kill a swan.
Lead is extremely toxic to all waterfowl. Swans are especially susceptible to lead poisoning because their long necks give them access to food and deposited lead that other waterfowl with shorter necks - such as geese and ducks - can't reach.
WDFW, its federal and Canadian counterparts, The Trumpeter Swan Society and other non-governmental organizations, are involved in a long-term study to locate the sources of lead and stop the swan mortalities in northwest Washington.
Since 2001, 252 swans have been captured and fitted with collars that biologists use to track the birds' movements, including specific areas where the birds forage and roost. Areas that see extensive swan use are examined for lead contamination.
The Trumpeter Swan Society has published a swan identification brochure that is available by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to the Trumpeter Swan Society, PMB 272 164th St. S.E., Mill Creek, WA, 98012.