Wild Game Consumption Advisory

Lead Fragments in Wild Game

Wild game is a fine source of organic, locally grown, lean protein that not only makes fine table fare but is good for you. It’s high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife encourages the consumption of wild game and would like to provide some easy steps that hunters and others can take to reduce exposure to lead in wild game.

To date, there have not been any cases of human illnesses linked to lead particles in hunter-harvested venison or game meat. However, hunters should be aware that there is the potential for lead exposure in eating harvested game, and it should be considered, particularly for children or women who are nursing, pregnant, or considering becoming pregnant. Lead is a toxic heavy metal that has negative effects on the cardiovascular system and brain. High levels of lead can hinder brain development.

You can reduce the risk of potential exposure by following these guidelines:

  • Your choice of ammunition can reduce your exposure to lead. You can avoid lead completely by choosing non-lead bullets. These bullets, often made of copper, now offer similar performance to premium lead ammunition at a comparable price. If you prefer to use lead, utilize controlled expansion bullets
  • Your shot placement is important. Lead bullets that strike vital organs or tissue are less likely to fragment than lead bullets that strike boney areas such as the shoulders of an animal. Proper shot placement will reduce lead fragmentation.
  • Process your meat properly. Trim generously around the shot area, and dispose of meat that is bruised, discolored, or contains bone fragments, dirt or hair. Lead fragments have been found as far as 18 inches from the wound channel, but the majority of lead particles are located in the vicinity of the shot area.

Advisory On Moose Liver and Kidney Consumption

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that the liver and kidneys of moose not be eaten because of possible contamination with the heavy metal cadmium. Several states, Canadian provinces and Scandinavian countries have issued similar warnings.

While cadmium may accumulate in the liver and kidneys, there is no known health risk from eating the meat of moose or deer. Air pollution from copper and nickel industries and from the burning of fossil fuels accounts for much of the cadmium deposited in eastern North America. Cadmium is ingested by moose with their food.

Maine health officials recommend that deer liver consumption be limited to 0.8 pounds in one sitting and 1 to 1 1/3 pounds per week. Human symptoms of acute cadmium poisoning include severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps and salivation.