Lead Toxicosis (Lead Poisoning)


Commonly Infected Wildlife

Several species of birds and mammals can be affected.

Is This Animal Infected?

Eagles and waterfowl are the animals most commonly affected by lead ingestion.

Lead poisoning has also been noted in small mammals, likely from the ingestion of lead contaminated prey.

Symptoms of lead poisoning may include weakness, drooping wings, inability to fly, and green, watery diarrhea.

Poisoned eagle
Bald Eagle suffering from lead toxicosis
Marge Gibson

Can I Get It?

  • Although there is no safe amount of lead exposure, it is rare for humans to develop lead poisoning from eating the meat of infected animals.
  • Studies in several states have found lead from bullet fragments in deer meat. These lead fragments can be dangerous to humans if ingested, especially in young children and pregnant women.
  • Many groups have asked for investigations into the health dangers of lead and its use by anglers and hunters.

How bad can it get?

At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.

Symptoms in humans

Symptoms can vary, as almost every organ in the body can be affected. High levels can cause slowed neural and mental development in young children.

Protect Myself and Others

Use non-lead alternatives for hunting ammunition and fishing tackle.

Safe for Pets?

No. Lead is toxic to pets.

What Causes It?

Lead is a metal that has no beneficial properties in the body or body functions. The use of lead in ammunition for upland hunting, shooting sports, and in fishing tackle is widespread.

The most significant hazard to wildlife is through direct ingestion of spent ammunition or lost fishing tackle, or through consumption of prey containing lead shot, bullets, or fragments.