Sick eagles spark ammunition debate

bald eagle in treatment
(Photo: WBAY)

DENMARK, Wis. (WBAY) – A follow up to a story we brought you yesterday about three bald eagles battling severe lead poisoning.

The Raptor Education Group in Antigo says the eagles are sick from eating the remains of deer harvested during the statewide youth hunt a few weeks ago. Another eagle recently died.

The group is urging hunters to use bullets without lead, but eliminating lead ammunition in Wisconsin could be a hard sell.

At Bradley Gun Sales in Denmark, nearly all the ammunition for deer hunting contains lead.

“It’s all they ever made them out of and I don’t think that is going to change, it expands when it hits for more knockdown power, relatively cheaper to make than steel,” says owner Arlyn Bradley.

As Bradley points out, most deer hunting ammunition today is copper jacketed, which he says rarely fragments.

But some bullets are full copper, which he prefers.

“Actually the bullets I use, well yeah, the bullet I use for deer hunting is an all-copper one. I guess I didn’t even think about that but I do use all copper bullets,” says Bradley.

“All hunters that I know and speak to, we would never want any eagles to die for any reason,” adds avid deer hunter Andy Pantzlaff from Maribel.

Pantzlaff says states like California will soon require all hunters to use full copper bullets, which he feels would have a negative impact in Wisconsin.

“It’s going to affect 2.5 million people in the state of Wisconsin to go to solid copper bullets and that’s three times the cost, it affects a lot of people economically, but it also affects our way to manage the deer herd, if we state losing deer hunters we can’t manage the deer herd and as you know that’s one problem the state of Wisconsin has is keeping the deer herd under control,” says Pantzlaff.

With the eagle population at its highest point in decades, Pantzlaff feels the ammunition argument lacks perspective.

“If you have more eagles you’re going to have more of them perishing via eagle on eagle fights, electric power lines and that’s where common sense really has to take over. Do we affect 2.5 million humans because we’re losing 25 eagles a year? Well then what do we do, turn off all the lights because they’re getting killed on power lines?” questions Pantzlaff.