In February 2008, a private physician in North Dakota radiographed hunterharvested venison and found that 60 of 100 packages contained metal fragments. This discovery had implications for public-funded venison donation programs, and it prompted several Midwest states to examine their programs. Approximately 500,000 deer hunters harvest >200,000 deer annually in Minnesota, and the state has a donation program similar to North Dakota’s program. Therefore, we analyzed fragmentation patterns and lead deposition in carcasses of 8 white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and 72 domestic sheep (Ovis aries). We fired 5 different bullet types from centerfire rifles, and we also fired projectiles from both a shotgun and a black-powder muzzleloader. Centerfire bullets, which are designed to expand quickly upon impacting the animal, left bullet fragments and lead deposits throughout the entire abdominal cavity of carcasses. We also used 2 types of centerfire bullets that were purportedly designed to resist fragmentation. One of these bullet types had fragmentation patterns and lead deposition rates similar to the rapid-expanding bullets; the other bullet type resisted fragmentation, and no lead was detected in muscle tissue that we sampled. Centerfire bullets made from copper resisted fragmentation, and of course did not deposit any lead in muscle tissues. Projectiles fired from the shotgun and black-powder muzzleloader did deposit lead into carcasses but did not fragment as much as bullets fired from centerfire rifles. Our study suggests that rinsing the abdominal cavity may spread the lead contaminant to other areas of the carcass, thereby worsening the contamination situation. We suggest that hunters who use centerfire rifles and are concerned about lead exposure should purchase a bullet type that resists fragmentation.
Grund, Marrett D.; Cornicelli, Louis; Carlson, Leah T.; and Butler, Erika A.
"Bullet Fragmentation and Lead Deposition in White-Tailed Deer and Domestic Sheep,"
Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 4
, Article 12.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi/vol4/iss2/12