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Danish pheasant and mallard hunters comply with the lead shot ban


Denmark implemented a total ban on the use of lead shot for hunting and clay target shooting in 1996. Compliance was not studied systematically until recently. However, sporadic police checks and individual studies indicated that compliance was far from complete in the early years after regulation. To assess current levels of compliance with Danish regulations, we purchased 730 carcasses of pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) and mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) and a further 690 mallard gizzards were obtained from > 14 shooting events distributed across > 10 local authority districts throughout East and West Denmark in the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 hunting seasons. All carcasses and gizzards were subject to radiography and those that contained shot were examined, pellets removed by dissection and identified to shot type. In all, 3589 pellets (intact or fragmented) were found in 1420 carcasses/gizzards, of which 799 pellets (some fragmented) were identified. Among the sample of pheasants with embedded shot (N = 447), 1.8% (in 2016) and 2.2% (in 2017) were lead shot. Among 148 mallards in 2017 with embedded shot, 3.1% had lead shot. None of the 2017 mallard gizzards had embedded lead shot. We conclude that Danish pheasant and mallard shooters mostly comply with the lead shot regulations. Steel was the most used non-lead alternative. The majority of ingested shot was non-lead, indicating that lead shot is not generally available to pheasant and mallard and suggesting compliance with regulations in recent years/decades. The study showed that the possibility to predict the metal composition of shot pellets from X-ray images alone was highly inaccurate, confirming the necessity of necropsy to determine shot type.

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We thank 15. Juni Fonden, Arboretet, Kirkegårdsvej 3A, DK-2970 Hørsholm for the grant given to the Danish Academy of Hunting for the study period 2017-2018. Not least, we are grateful to Klosterhedens Vildt who assisted with collection of test samples, to Tony Fox for helpful comments to previous drafts, and to Annija Užule for useful assistance with necropsy of bird carcasses.

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Correspondence to Niels Kanstrup.

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Kanstrup, N., Balsby, T.J.S. Danish pheasant and mallard hunters comply with the lead shot ban. Ambio 48, 1009–1014 (2019).

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  • Ammunition
  • Bismuth shot
  • Compliance
  • Hunting
  • Poisoning
  • Steel shot