Moorhead, Minn. — Beth Siverhus has hunted deer since 1976. The Warroad, Minn., woman also spends time rehabilitating injured birds.
She'd never really connected those two activities until this year, when she saw several eagles die from lead poisoning. She believes they likely ingested the lead while eating piles of deer guts left in the woods by hunters.
"It's a pretty sick feeling to realize I could have been doing something to both contaminate the food we eat, and make wildlife sick that are feeding on the gut piles," said Siverhus. "It's heartbreaking to see these eagles reduced to nothing. They can't stand, they can't fly. It's no way to die."
Some Minnesota food shelves stopped accepting venison this year after lead fragments were found in the meat.
Despite that, Siverhus was skeptical of the danger posed to humans by lead fragments in venison. But dying eagles, added to potential danger to humans, changed her mind. Starting next year, she will use copper ammunition.
"From what I've read on the Internet, copper works quite well as a substitute but it's more expensive. However, I shoot one or two bullets a year so it's not much of a sacrifice for me," said Siverhus. "I understand that hunters find this difficult. I found it difficult. But I believe it's time to change."
But should lead bullets be banned?
State Rep. Sandy Masin, DFL-Eagan, says yes. Masin hasn't worked out the details of her legislation, but she thinks there should be a ban or significant restrictions on the use of lead bullets.