Efficacy of non-lead rifle ammunition for hunting in Denmark
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Lead has traditionally been used for making hunting ammunition. However, lead from spent hunting bullets has proven to be a health hazard for wildlife, ecosystems, and humans. The transition to use non-lead ammunition for hunting raises several concerns, especially inter alia the question of efficacy. This study examined whether non-lead rifle ammunition fulfills the demands of ethical and humane hunting by causing a rapid kill of hunted animals equivalent to lead rifle ammunition. A field sample of 657 hoofed animals, most red deer (Cervus elaphus) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), were hunted under normal Danish conditions by sport hunters using commonly used rifle calibers. The efficiency of copper versus lead bullets was tested using flight distance after being hit as the primary response parameter. For red deer, we were not able to show any statistical significant difference between performance of non-lead and lead bullet. For roe deer, we found a small, statistically significant, relation between flight distances and shooting distance for roe deer struck with non-lead bullets but not with lead bullets. However, this difference was not of such magnitude as to have any practical significance under hunting conditions. We conclude that in terms of lethality and animal welfare, non-lead ammunition within the tested range of bullet calibers can be recommended as an effective alternative to lead-core bullets.
KeywordsHunting Lead-free Copper Bullets Efficacy Roe deer Red deer
We thank the many hunters who took the time to provide all the data we requested. We also thank 15. Juni Fonden, Arboretet, Kirkegårdsvej 3A, DK-2970 Hørsholm for funding all stages of this project. The grant was given for the 3-year study period 2013–2015 (grant number 2013-A-88).
Compliance with ethical standards
All of the hunters who participated in the study were fully licensed under Danish law, were experienced hunters, who killed deer according to prevailing ethical hunting standards.
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