Get the Lead Out for FREE

ArraySeptember 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm

[caption id="attachment_410" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="A radiograph of a common loon showing a lead sinker (the brightest white object) in its gizzard. Photo courtesy of Avian Haven."][/caption]   One of my not-so-glamorous duties as a wildlife biologist in our agency’s Bird Group is to collect dead loons and send them to the Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine’s Wildlife Clinic to be necropsied (a necropsy is an autopsy of a wild animal).  Dr. Mark Pokras and his students determine the cause of death as part of an ongoing study, and then let me know so I can inform the concerned citizen who originally notified me or a coworker of the dead loon.  I just finished cataloguing, bagging, and freezing 2 loon chicks and 5 adults.  With the help of Avian Haven, a wild bird rehabilitation facility in Freedom, we were able to get radiographs of a few adults – 2 individuals showed obvious lead sinkers in their gizzards.  These were both adults, most likely breeding adults, that were otherwise healthy.  A sad twist of fate presented them a lead sinker instead of an ordinary stone to add to the numerous stones already in their gizzard used for grinding food.  It doesn’t take much lead to cause lead poisoning, and death is only a few days away.    Loons are not the only wildlife species susceptible to lead poisoning from discarded lead fishing tackle.  Any wildlife that eats fish or feeds off the bottom of wetlands, ponds, or lakes, is susceptible.  This of course includes great blue herons and many other colonial wading birds…thus the reason I am posting this topic on this blog.   But, I do have some good news.  There is a program happening right now, right here in Maine that is offering FREE non-lead fishing tackle in exchange for YOUR lead tackle.  Read the news release below and find a participating Soil & Water Conservation District near you to help make a difference in our favorite fish-eaters’ lives!  Thank you.      ~~~~~~~~~  ANGLERS!  Its time to swap out that old lead fishing tackle – for free!   Announcing the Soil and Water Conservation District Lead Fishing Tackle Exchange Program 2010  In partnership with the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund     Why not lead?  
  • Lead has been known for centuries to be toxic – to humans and wildlife alike.
  • Angling and other outdoor sports deposit thousands of tons of lead into the environment each year. 
  • Lead ingestion is a death sentence for Maine’s loons, other water birds, and even the raptors, such as bald eagles, that may feed on these water birds.  Water birds ingest lead when foraging on lake bottoms for the gravel they require or from feeding on fish attached to lead fishing gear.  As the lead sinker or jig is exposed to the pebbles in the gizzard and acids of the stomach, lead enters the bird's system and slowly poisons the bird. 
  • Children are particularly susceptible to lead absorption.  Children handling lead sinkers and jigs are at risk of lead poisoning.
   What are the alternatives?  There are many non-toxic alternatives to lead fishing tackle, including those made of natural rocks, tin, steel, bismuth, ceramic and more.  Many retail stores carry these alternatives and still more would be carried if the public demand for these products increased.   Now anglers in 8 counties (see District contacts below) can clean the toxic tackle out of their boxes and get replacement non-toxic tackle for free!  Program begins in May and will continue while supplies last.  Contact your District office to learn more about the program or simply stop by with your tackle box.  The program isn’t necessarily a one-for-one exchange, but there will be a great variety of non-toxic tackle to try, and no one will go home empty-handed!  What better time than right now to spring clean your tackle box, making fishing safer for you, your children, and Maine’s wildlife?   Together, we can prevent lead poisoning.  Your choices can save lives.  District Contacts: 
Rosetta Thompson, Executive Director
Franklin County Soil & Water Conservation District
107 Park St, Farmington, ME 04938
207-778-4279; c: 207-212-6109; fax: 207-778-5785; website
Dale Finseth
Kennebec County Soil & Water Conservation District
21 Enterprise Drive, Suite #1, Augusta, ME 04330
(207)622-7847; Fax: (207)626-8196; website:
Katherine Ward, District Office Manager
Knox-Lincoln Soil & Water Conservation District
191 Camden, ME  04864
(207) 273-2005 ext 101
Christopher Brewer, District Office Coordinator
Penobscot County Soil & Water Conservation District
1423 Broadway, Suite #2, Bangor, ME 04401
(207)990-3676; Fax: (207)942-1782; website:
Shelia Richard, Director
Piscataquis County Soil & Water Conservation District
42 Engdahl Drive, Dover-Foxcroft, ME 04426
(207)564-2321; Fax: (207)564-2570; website:
Denise Blanchette/Kym Sanderson
Waldo County Soil & Water Conservation District
266 Waterville Rd, Belfast, ME 04915
(207) 338-1964 ext. 3
 Laura Lecker/Carol Weymouth
Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District
12 High Street, Suite 3, Skowhegan, ME 04976
(207) 474-8324 ext. 3