A Fatal Diet
DUCKS and other waterfowl seem to have learned fairly well that pellets of shot traveling at high speed from the end of a gun barrel are objects to steer clear of. What they haven't learned, however, is that these same particles of lead picked up from the shooting grounds after the hunters have gone home may prove equally fatal. It happens that waterfowl while feeding have a weakness for swallowing small pebbles and other tiny hard objects. This is good for the bird, as grit for the gizzard is supplied in this way. All waterfowl, however, are strongly advised to steer clear of a lead diet.
The Department of Agriculture has found that a considerable number of waterfowl die from lead poisoning. The Biological Survey recently undertook an investigation at various shooting grounds to find out how much loose shot there was in the mud and the approximate amount picked up by waterfowl. In places where there was considerable regular shooting, one or more shot were found in practically every sieveful of mud taken from below the shallow waters. Furthermore, it appears that lead is considered quite a delicacy in waterfowl circles, for the shot are invariably swallowed whenever found.
Experiments have shown that shot swallowed gradually produce a poisoning that results in paralysis and usually death for the bird. Experiments with wild waterfowl captured when young and reared in captivity have shown that six pellets of No. 6shot constitute an amount of lead that is always fatal. Two or three shot were sufficient to cause death in several instances. In one experiment,, two mallards were given one No. & shot each. One of them died in nine days but the other was able to throwoff the poison.
It is rather discouraging to learn that there doesn't seem to be anything that can be done about this. There is slight chance, we take it, for making the waterfowl see the error of their ways. However, the Biological Survey is working on the problem and if you have any statistician the numbers and kinds of birds affected, you will be performing a service to the cause by letting them know about it.
Outing , Publishing Company. Outing. New York: Outing Publishing Company, 1920.
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