OLYMPIA -- The opening weekends of pheasant season were a huge success in terms of compliance with new regulations that require nontoxic shot for upland game hunters at several sites across Washington, according to Tom Keegan, an upland game manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Part of that success, Keegan said, stemmed from support from a number of conservation and corporate partners from around the country. Most hunters were well-prepared for pheasant season openers, carrying some form of nontoxic shot for one of the biggest opening days of the year. For those hunters who were not aware of the new rules, biologists and volunteers provided free samples of nontoxic shells and information packets at most affected sites.
Several local chapters of Pheasants Forever worked with Federal Cartridge Co. to provide steel shot shells and information at nontoxic-shot-only sites on youth hunt and pheasant opening days. Pheasants Forever has not taken a position on use of nontoxic shot for upland bird hunting but recognized the potential problems a new regulation might have on uninformed hunters. Bismuth Cartridge Co. and Kent Cartridge America also donated shotshells for pheasant and other upland hunters to use on the new areas.
"WDFW appreciates the contributions of Pheasants Forever, Federal Cartridge Co., Kent Cartridge America, and Bismuth Cartridge Co., as well as volunteers who helped distribute nontoxic shells and supplies," Keegan said.
New rules requiring nontoxic shot on ten wildlife areas were adopted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission last spring to protect waterfowl and other wildlife on sites where wildlife may be exposed to large amounts of shot. Most of the sites are locations where pheasants are released for hunting.
Nontoxic shot has been required for all hunting at Skagit Wildlife Area since 1988. Similar rules took effect this fall for:
- Chehalis River pheasant release site
- Dungeness Recreation Area
- Hunter Farms pheasant release site
- Lake Terrell Wildlife Area - all segments including Tennant Lake
- Raymond Airport pheasant release site
- Snoqualmie Wildlife Area - all segments including Cherry Valley, Crescent Lake, and Stillwater
- Driscoll Island, Hegdahl Parcel, & Kline Parcel segments of Sinlahekin Wildlife Area
- Sunnyside Wildlife Area
- Bridgeport Bar segment of Wells Wildlife Area
- Two Rivers & Wallula Units of USFWS McNary Wildlife Refuge
Keegan said the reason for prohibiting lead shot on some sites is that lead is highly toxic to wildlife. Waterfowl are especially susceptible to lead poisoning because of their feeding habits. Evidence of lead poisoning is most evident in swans, due to their habit of feeding deep within wetlands that have lead pellets still remaining from past years.
Problems with the use of lead shot were discovered by extensive testing during the 1970s and 1980s, which led to a phase-out of lead shot as an allowable type of shot load for waterfowl between 1986 and 1991. Lead-poisoned ducks and other birds carrying embedded lead shot also are known to cause lead poisoning in other species. For example, bald eagles and other raptors can be poisoned by feeding on wildlife containing lead shot.
Keegan said the above sites were converted to nontoxic shot use based on a high potential for ingestion of lead by wildlife (for example, sites where waterfowl use sheet water or flooded grain fields).
After discussing a statewide ban on lead shot earlier this year, the Fish and Wildlife Commission has taken a more measured approach to potential regulations involving lead shot. At their August meeting, commissioners reviewed a draft timeline to implement a potential ban on lead shot. After reviewing the issue, the Commission directed staff to continue with a planned review of lead shot impacts on wildlife before any further discussion or action is taken. Staff are collecting scientific information and will prepare a report before the end of the year. After the Commission reviews the report, they will decide whether further action is appropriate.