Contaminants at a Shooting Range: Toxicological and Nutritional Significance to Birds and Mammals
Gonzalez, Gabriela Rae
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Target shooting in the United States has become an increasingly popular sport in the last century. In addition to the large quantity of lead pellets littering range grounds and surrounding land, considerable amounts of clay target fragments cover shooting range areas as well as adjoining habitats. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) within the target, as well as lead pellets from shotguns pose multiple threats to a variety of wildlife. To determine the effects of clay target and lead pellet ingestion on wildlife, I conducted controlled experiments on Coturnix quail exposed to clay targets in the lab, and collected wild birds and mammals exposed to lead pellets at a shooting range. The first Coturnix study determined whether quail voluntarily consumed target fragments or limestone fragments. In both fall (F=29.2, P<0.01) and spring (F=6.45, P=0.02) experiments, I found that quail consistently selected limestone fragments, but almost completely rejected clay target fragments. In the second study, quail were force-fed varying amounts of target dust on a weekly basis to simulate sporadic exposure to clay target dust. In both summer (F=1.63, P=0.23) and winter (F=0.34, P=0.8) trials, male quail did not have significant weight loss. Female quail had insignificant weight losses in summer trials (F=1.63, P=0.23) but experienced weight gains in winter trials (F=3.53, P=0.04). In the third and final Coturnix study, varying amounts of target dust were incorporated into daily feed rations to simulate frequent exposure to clay target dust. Male quail experienced weight loss in both summer (F=16.13, P<0.01) and winter (F=8.47, P<0.01) trials. Female quail also suffered weight loss in both summer (F=15.62, P<0.01) and winter (F=17.50, P<0.01) trials. Weight loss likely resulted from inadequate nutrition as opposed to target poisoning. However, because there were no biochemical analyses performed to test for PAH presence, no definite conclusions can be made. The second study focused on lead contamination in Passeriformes, perching birds, and small mammals. Seventeen of 20 birds (85%) (Passerine spp) captured at the shooting range had elevated lead levels (F=5.21, P<0.028), when compared to birds (n=20) at the control site. Nine of 26 (35%) white-footed mice (Peromyscous leucopus), trapped at the shooting range had elevated liver (F=9.78, P=0.0029) and kidney (F=22.49, P<0.01) lead levels. These results indicate that Passerine species as well as Peromyscous species around shooting ranges inadvertently consume lead, either as lead pellets, mistaking them for grit or dietary items, or through environmental sources such as water, soil, and vegetation.
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