Fragmentation of lead-free and lead-based hunting rifle bullets under real life hunting conditions in Germany
As lead is a heavy metal showing high toxicity for many organisms, its entry in the ecosystem should be minimised. Nevertheless, considerable quantities are deposited in the environment via hunting ammunition. Such practice is responsible for the occurrence of lead poisoning in many wildlife species and represents a health risk to humans. We assess the differences in the fragmentation patterns of lead-based and lead-free hunting rifle bullets using the radiographic characteristics of gunshot wounds. We took radiographs of 297 wild ungulates shot during regular hunting events in Germany. Compared to lead-free ammunition, both the number of bullet fragments and the maximal distance between fragments and the wound channel increased when bullets were lead-based. Under normal German hunting conditions, the use of lead-based bullets causes a broad contamination of the carcass and the viscera with bullet material. The wide-spread substitution of lead-based bullets through non-lead alternatives should therefore be further encouraged.
KeywordsBullet fragmentation Game animals Lead poisoning Radiography Rifle bullets Sustainable hunting
This study was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (reference no. 0330720), the Supreme Hunting Authorities of the federal states of Brandenburg (23-2130/7 + 5-54/07) and Schleswig–Holstein (V 542–7461.9) and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, and administered by the Project Management Juelich (PtJ). We thank the forest administrations of the Federal Republic of Germany and the federal states of Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig–Holstein as well as the City of Rostock and the Müritz National Park for providing us with study animals. Special thanks go to K. Blank, V. Hoffmann, Dr. N. Kenntner, F. Lackmann, Dr. M. Nadjafzadeh, Dr. F. Scholz, H. Schumann, Dr. J. Sulawa, K. Totschek and all participating hunters and foresters for their help in conducting the examinations. We are grateful to Dr. C. Gremse and Professor Dr. S. Rieger (HNEE Eberswalde) for making the shooting reports available to us. Finally, we thank the Guest Editor and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on this manuscript.
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