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x-ray with lead fragments

An x-ray shows wide dispersal of metal fragments in the body cavity of a deer. © Peregrine Fund

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Precautions for using lead ammunition

Deer harvested with lead bullets have been shown to have tiny lead particles or fragments remaining in the processed meat. These are often too small to be seen and can disperse far from the wound channel. Although lead in venison does not rival lead paint in older homes as a health risk for the public, the risk is not low enough to ignore. Children under six years and pregnant women are at the greatest risk from lead exposure. The amount of lead found in a small percentage of venison samples suggests that long term effects of lead consumption could occur in people who regularly eat venison shot with lead ammunition. However, there is currently no known evidence linking human consumption of venison to lead poisoning.

These suggestions can reduce exposure to lead:

  • Consider alternative expanding non-lead ammunition such as copper or other high weight-retention bullets, such as bonded bullets.
  • Practice marksmanship and hunting skills to get closer, making cleaner, lethal shots away from major muscle areas. Aim for the neck or the head, or the vitals behind the shoulder. Don't shoot at running deer.
  • Avoid consuming internal organs, as they can contain extra lead from heart-lung shots.
  • Remind your meat processor, or if you process you own venison, to not use deer with excessive shot damage. Always trim a generous distance away from the wound channel and discard any meat that is bruised, discolored or contains hair, dirt, bone fragments or grass.

Additional documents

This is an important issue that will continue to be investigated. For a more comprehensive review of lead poisoning go to Wisconsin Department of Health Services [exit DNR]

Last revised: Monday September 18 2017