Study finds 99% compliance with non-toxic shot requirements

ALBANY - As most waterfowl hunting seasons in New York have come to a close, New York State Department of Environmental (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens announced results of a study done by DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement that found very high hunter compliance with regulations requiring the use of non-toxic shot for waterfowl hunting.

Since 1988, possession or use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting has been strictly prohibited throughout New York State. This preceded a nationwide ban that took effect in 1991. Use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting was banned because large amounts of spent shot pellets were deposited in marshes and wetlands where waterfowl concentrate to feed. Birds that ingested lead shot from the environment often died soon after from lead poisoning. Some hunters opposed the ban at first, because alternatives to lead shot were more expensive and steel shot (the principal alternative to lead) did not perform the same as lead shot. In some cases, steel shot may have caused damage to older guns that were not made to shoot harder shot materials such as steel.

In the two decades since lead shot was banned, a new generation of hunters has taken to the field with little or no experience hunting ducks and geese with anything other than non-toxic shot. Older hunters have acclimated to the alternatives to lead shot, and shotshell manufacturers continue to improve the choices available. Even though great strides have been made in the use of non-toxic shot, DEC wildlife staff and Conservation Officers lacked data on the current level of waterfowl hunter compliance with non-toxic shot regulations.

Between September 2010 and January 2011, Conservation Officers checked 482 waterfowl hunters in the field, primarily in central and northern New York. Hunters were checked on public lands (294 hunters) as well as private lands (188 hunters). The results were impressive: only 2 hunters were found to be in possession of lead shot in the field.

New York’s 35,000 waterfowl hunters also have an excellent safety record. Since the 2001 season, the average number of hunting-related shooting incidents has been only 2 per year, and many of those incidents were either self-inflicted or involved minimal injury from shot pellets striking a companion or other hunter nearby.
Commissioner Martens applauds New York’s waterfowl hunters for their excellent compliance and safety record, reflecting a genuine commitment to waterfowl conservation. Many waterfowl hunters are also staunch supporters of wetland habitat conservation in New York and throughout North America, contributing millions of dollars annually to habitat protection and enhancement.