Non-lead Ammunition Distribution Programs to Offset Golden Eagle Mortalities in Wyoming

Wind energy development has increased substantially in recent years and multiple additional facilities are currently in the pre-development phase. One species that is at risk of being negatively impacted by increased wind energy production is the golden eagle. The placement of wind turbines often overlap with golden eagle habitat resulting in mortalities by direct collision. In response to this problem, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) instituted a policy of “no net loss” for this species.

 

If the number of golden eagles that die as a direct result of wind development are greater than zero, mitigation methods must be implemented to reduce eagle deaths as compensation. The only currently accepted and broadly used mitigation technique is retrofitting power poles. Both the USFWS and the wind industry have expressed the need to increase the number of acceptable mitigation methods. Lead poisoning is a significant source of golden eagle mortality and the primary cause is thought to be the ingestion of bullets fragments in the offal of harvested game animals.

 

We recently received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to test the efficacy of using a non-lead ammunition distribution program as an effective and quantifiable mitigation technique. 

We are distributing non-lead ammunition to hunters in southeast Wyoming. We are then quantifying the number of game animals harvested with non-lead ammunition and finally, estimating the reduction in golden eagle moralities. At project completion, we will be able to quantify costs to save eagles and provide the USFWS with a scientifically defensible framework to offset golden eagle moralities using non-lead ammunition.

  1. Implement a non-lead ammunition distribution program in areas with high risk of lead toxicity and high use by golden eagles 

  2. Quantify harvest with non-lead ammunition in the study area

  3. Estimate the reduction of golden eagle deaths in the study area