News and Activities

Non-toxic Shot Approved for Upcoming Waterfowl Season

Date Posted: February 7, 2003

Hunters will now have a choice of eight non-toxic shots for waterfowl hunting. On January 10, 2003, the Service gave permanent approval to ENVIRON-Metal's HEVI-SHOT brand of non-toxic shot that contains a tungsten, iron, nickel and tin formulation (TINT). The shot had been given temporary approval, pending completion of toxicological studies and other evaluations. "This will give waterfowl hunters another option for hunting", said Service Director Steve Williams. ENVIRON-Metal's application included information on chemical characterization, production variability, use volume, toxicological effects, environmental fate and transport, and evaluation. In accordance with its regulations, on May 10, 2002, the Service published in the Federal Register a proposed rule indicating intent to approve TINT shot. After reviewing the application and supporting data and evaluating public comment, the Service has determined that this shot does not pose a significant danger to migratory birds and other wildlife or their habitats. Efforts to phase out lead shot began in the 1970s, but a nationwide ban on lead shot for all waterfowl hunting was not implemented until 1991. Canada instituted a complete ban on the use of lead shot in 1999, after banning its use near bodies of water and on national wildlife areas earlier. In order to measure the effect of the ban on lead shot, researchers examined thousands of ducks harvested in the Mississippi Flyway during the 1996 and 1997 waterfowl seasons, the fifth and sixth seasons after the 1991 ban on lead shot. Based on the survey's findings, researchers William L. Anderson of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Stephen P. Havera and Bradley W. Zercher of the Illinois Natural History Survey estimate that the ban on lead shot reduced lead poisoning deaths of Mississippi Flyway mallards by 64 percent, while overall ingestion of toxic pellets declined by 78 percent over previous levels. The report concludes that by significantly reducing lead shot ingestion in waterfowl, the ban prevented the lead poisoning deaths of approximately 1.4 million ducks in the 1997 fall flight of 90 million ducks. In addition, the researchers state that approximately 462,000 to 615,000 acres of breeding habitat would have been required to produce the same number of birds that potentially were saved by nontoxic shot regulations that year. With the ban now entering its twelfth year, ingestion of lead shot has probably continued to decline from the levels documented in the study, preventing an increasing number of lead poisoning deaths.


Nicholas Throckmorton 202/208-5636


Let's Get the Lead Out! (aka "Loons and Lead"). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Publication (pdf)

Lead and the Spectacled Eider. Endangered Species Bulletin. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Last updated: June 12, 2015