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The Game, Fish and Parks Commission has recently released some good news for those interested in protecting pheasant populations.

A three year study into how many birds consume lead shot and the effect it has on them has concluded pheasants are relatively well off. The study found that when compared to ducks and mourning doves, pheasants are more resilient to lead poisoning.

The study used pheasant hens raised in a pen in an experiment to determine the number of lead pellets the birds required to ingest before they died from poisoning. There were two groups in this experiment, one group fed one pellet, and the other fed three pellets each. The birds were observed by researchers over three weeks.

To the researchers’ surprise none of the birds died.

Lead shot is currently banned for waterfowl hunting and in most parts of South Dakota. This study is one of the only which has examined the effects of lead shot on pheasants. Numerous studies have examined the results of lead shot on other birds in the past, but have left pheasants out.

Ducks and mourning doves in previous studies have shown they will die within a few weeks of ingestion. Why there is such a difference between pheasants and their water bound counterparts is unknown.

The study also looked at the concentration of lead pellets in the ground. On one preserve the concentration was found to be as high as 10,000 lead pellets per acre. Yet off shooting preserves the concentration was significantly less.

This result correlated with the fact pheasants off the reserve ingested significantly less lead than those birds found on preserves. The study also found that pheasants are as likely to eat lead pellets as water birds with about 1 in 20 birds having lead pellets in their digestive systems.

Despite the results caution is still needed. Lead pellets affect the nervous system and behaviour of the birds.

Have you used lead pellets in hunting? What are your experiences?

Let us know in the comments below.

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