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owl, muskox, wolf, butterflyArctic National Wildlife Refuge
Refuge Information | Wildlife | Habitat | People
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Why we archived the ANWR website at

Lead: Part 2

[This information was originally produced by Beverly Skinner, wildlife biologist at Innoko National Wildlife Refuge (in west central Alaska), for radio broadcast on Public Radio stations throughout Alaska.]

Lead has been used by humans since ancient times. Signs of lead poisoning have been documented for just about as long. Because of lead's toxicity to humans and the environment, its use in products is currently being phased out in this country. Older houses painted with lead based paint or with lead pipes are carefully being renovated. Lead levels added to gasoline are being lowered. Another major change is the elimination of poisonous lead shot and the mandatory switch to nontoxic shot for waterfowl hunters.

Lead poisoning in waterfowl was first documented in the US in 1894. Since then, lead poisoning of waterfowl has been found in all the major flyways in the world including the United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia. More recently, lead poisoning has also been documented in a wide variety of upland game birds such as pheasants and quail, as well as shorebirds. The newest recognized threat of lead poisoning is in the raptors, or birds of prey.

Wildlife biologists recognized the need to eliminate lead shot as early as 1935. Experimentation with steel shot began in the fifties, although it wasn't until 1991 that laws were finally changed making nontoxic shot a requirement for all waterfowl hunting in the United States. Before the changes from lead shot to nontoxic shot, waterfowl hunters in the lower 48 states were depositing several million pounds of lead into the environment each year. This lead in the environment was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.5 to 3 million ducks and geese each year, as well as an unknown number of upland game birds and raptors. Here in Alaska, the number of lead-killed waterfowl equals as much as 10 times the total number of birds waterfowl hunters kill each year.

Why does lead shot have such an impact on waterfowl? Ducks and geese have a gizzard which is a part of the stomach that can be characterized as the teeth and jaws of the bird. It is inside the gizzard that food is rotated and crushed before moving down into the main part of the stomach. This grinding action within the gizzard is often aided by a bird swallowing sand, grit, or a few pebbles. Waterfowl get in trouble when they pick up toxic spent lead shot for use in their gizzard instead of sand or even non toxic steel shot. Some lead shot is picked up by accident whereas it appears other waterfowl species deliberately select the lead shot. What this all means is that millions of ducks and geese are being poisoned while they are feeding, and many consequently die from the effects of ingesting lead shot left behind by waterfowl hunters.

For Alaska Naturally and the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge, this is Beverly Skinner. The solution to lead poisoning in waterfowl is non-toxic shot. It has been reported that as few as one or two #6 lead shot pellets is sufficient to cause lead poisoning in waterfowl. In some areas of Alaska over 1/3 of nesting birds are found to have elevated lead levels in their blood. I'll have information on alternatives to lead shot next week.

Refuges: where wildlife comes first

Refuge Information | Wildlife | Habitat | People
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Text and graphics by USFWS staff
Last modified 28 July 2000

Why we archived the ANWR website at

Note: This is the archive of the FWS Arctic National Wildlife Refuge website. In December, 2001 FWS took this website offline, making it unavailable to the public. It includes 90 plus pages of information and many maps. As of 2006 the important information contained in this, the original "unsanitized" version of the FWS website, has yet to return to the internet, so we will continue to maintain it here as a permanent archive to help inform activists and concerned citizens. If you find any broken links, please report them to me at [email protected] and I will attempt to make the repairs. January, 2008 update - A small part of the original information that was present in 2001 has made it back into the current ANWR website. There is also an archive that contains a small amount of the original information, but it is not readily available from the main website.

Click here to visit our homepage. Click here for NRDC's message about ANWR from Robert Redford.

For more information on why this website was "pulled," Check here. And, you can also view the maps of caribou calving areas that the FWS did not want you to see here.

January 29, 2008: Visit Our New ANWR News for Updates

This page should be cited as follows:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2001. Potential impacts of proposed oil and gas
       development on the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain: Historical overview and
       issues of concern. Web page of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,
       Fairbanks, Alaska. 17 January 2001.

Archived by Visit us at is an independent firm specializing in the publication of educational and research resources. We created the first U.S. based interactive toxic chemical facility maps on the internet in 1996 and we have been online ever since. Learn more about us and view some of our projects and services.

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