Despite increased knowledge about environmental toxins and changes in lead use (i.e., the mandated use of nonlead paint, gasoline, and shotgun pellets used for hunting waterfowl on federal lands), lead poisoning continues to occur in terrestrial birds. The degree of exposure and its demographic effect, however, continue to be described, emphasizing the growing concern over lead exposure. We examined 302 blood samples from common ravens (Corvus corax) scavenging on hunter-killed large ungulates and their offal piles to determine if lead rifle-bullet residuum was a point source for lead ingestion in ravens. We took blood samples during a 15-month period spanning 2 hunting seasons. Of the ravens tested during the hunting season, 47% exhibited elevated blood lead levels (≥10 μg/dL) whereas 2% tested during the nonhunting season exhibited elevated levels. Females had significantly higher blood lead levels than did males. Our results confirm that ravens are ingesting lead during the hunting season and are likely exposed to lead from rifle-shot big-game offal piles.
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Vol. 72 • No. 1