Lead Poisoning – Part 3

by Greg Martin

Liberty Wildlife Volunteer

[This article originally appeared in Nature News July 2012]

When dealing with environmental issues like lead poisoning, it’s vital to remember that we are all on the same side, whether we realize it or not. Finding common ground is what solves issues and if enough people think to do so they may see in members of the “opposition” a great deal of themselves. Many hunters are naturalists before they are hunters; the act of hunting simply immerses them in the wild world like few things can. It’s a way of getting back to nature and to the roots of our species that cannot be replicated; ultimately, the environment is what matters, and members of the two “sides,” hunters and conservationists, are often the same people.

Hunting is not the enemy; lead is. The licensing fees and other costs hunters pay in order to pursue their pastime are the very sources of revenue that fund our state and federal conservation programs. Without them, the system that stewards over our wildlife and wilderness areas would simply fall apart. Many of the unintended deaths resulting from lead rounds are likely because of ignorance of lead’s dangers, not ambivalence. Until the day comes when lead bullets are no longer the dominant product in the market, sharing knowledge remains a critical defense: hunters who learn the damage that even a single sliver of lead can do to a bald eagle might be more conscious about scanning the gut pile left over after field dressing their deer. Or, they might pack it out with them, eliminating the danger entirely.

What other steps can be taken ?

Alternative ammunitions are gradually appearing on the market, and as more companies shift to a post-lead future, these new rounds will become increasingly available and affordable. There are many factors, economic and otherwise, that might influence what ammunition a given hunter buys, but raising awareness of the potential dangers could help influence that choice, or at the very least, encourage responsible hunting. To a lesser extent, the same also applies to fishing: lead sinkers are often swallowed by fish, and in such a way get swallowed by raptors like ospreys and bald eagles.  While far less contentious, switching to non-lead sinkers is itself a responsible choice to enjoy an honored tradition without threatening the beautiful birds who themselves are just out to fish.

In some cases, the shift away from lead bullets is already accelerating. Bans on lead ammunition are far more common for waterfowl hunters, because changing the metal pellet in a shotgun shell doesn’t affect the ballistics in the same way that a different metal with a different weight affects a rifle shot. Additionally, legislation has already been passed in some areas, restricting or even eliminating lead bullets outright. Perhaps most famously, a 2008 California law banned all lead ammunition types from regions inhabited by the critically endangered California condor.

Liberty Wildlife has in the past treated condors for lead poisoning. One did not make it and that death was both agonizing and pointless, an unintended consequence of a bullet that wasn’t even fired at him.  These are the kinds of catalysts that could and should be used to promote awareness of lead’s dangers, but in a responsible way. We can’t bring back that dead condor any more than we can instantly reverse the other environmental catastrophes befalling out world. This death was a blow against the fragile recovery process trying to bring the species back. Lead, though, is but one man-made symptom among many that brought these birds to the edge of extinction to begin with. Lead is but one more symptom of an imperfect species: us.

Lead, habitat destruction, pesticides, poisons, pollution, encroachment; every blow being struck against the world seems to come from our hands. In this case, though, curing the symptoms can halt the disease. Man’s destructive hands can be the same tools that put the world back together. Everything comes back to knowledge; knowledge and inclusion. It’s easier to change a mind than it is to change the world, but every mind changed, every point raised, every ally gained, is one more step in the right direction. It’s one more hunter who shoots copper or carries his gut pile out.

It’s one more animal saved.

Itsy Bitsy Spider

by Claudia Kirscher

Liberty Wildlife Volunteer

In the spring, when are temperatures are starting to climb, we will start to see our insect population begin to rise as well.  Spiders are one of the original “green” ways to keep our yards, gardens, and homes free of annoying bugs.

The Funnel-Web Spider is similar in appearance to the wolf spider, but it is smaller and more delicate, with a body length of about ¼ inch.  They live world-wide.  They build webs in grass or leaf litter, on stones or in the corners of buildings.

To catch prey, it builds a sheet-like web with a distinct funnel shape leading to a retreat where the spider hides in the back. The sheet of the web acts as a catch basin for insects that blunder onto it, becoming stuck in the sticky silk. The spider, sensing the vibrations in the web, goes out to retrieve its meal. If the prey item is small enough, the spider will cut it out of the web and bring it down into its retreat to feed on.

Because these webs are often built in grasses, a common name for these arachnids is “grass spider.” Funnel-web spiders are active from March through October.

There are approximately 180 species of Orb Weavers in the world, coming in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes.  Common traits include a rounded abdomen and orange-to-brown or yellow-black coloring.  Legs of an Orb Weaver are generally very long, giving it a menacing look.  Their overall body size can range from 6 mm for males and up to 10 mm to 20 mm for the females.

Habitats can range from grass to corners of homes or under protected porches. The spider sits in the middle of its web, head facing downwards, waiting for prey to come upon their net. If the spider is not found in the middle of the web, it is usually nearby monitoring the web by way of a “signal” line still attached to the spider. The moment a prey gets entangled in the sticky web, the spider can come out to finish the job.  The web consists of radial strands, like spokes of a wheel, and concentric circles.  Webs may be quite large, spanning several feet in width.

It is reported that Orb Weavers will re-spin a new web every night. Their proficiency at nighttime hunting makes them the ultimate garden bug security system.

So, instead of reaching for those environmentally-harmful insecticides this spring, let a few itsy-bitsy spiders help you keep the insect population down.


Baby Bird Season

by Gail Cochrane

Liberty Wildlife Volunteer

In the Sonoran Desert quite a few bird species begin nesting as early as January and February, in what are thought of as winter months.  By March baby bird season is officially under way.  You may discover an active nest or a baby bird on the ground and there are some basics to remember before you decide to intervene.

•    Birds have very little sense of smell.  If you pick up a baby bird and put it back in its nest, the mother bird will be completely accepting of it.
•    If you find an unfeathered baby bird on the ground and you can see the nest, and reach it without endangering yourself, please put the baby back. A feathered fledgling on the ground can be normal.  Many babies learn to fly from the ground and will spend a few days out of the nest still cared for by mom and dad.  Keep your pets away and wait a couple of days before intervening.
•    Please don’t sit and watch a nest. The parent bird will see your eyes on their nest (you are a predator!) and they may abandon the nest and all the babies. Go away and come back in a couple of hours, casually walking slowly past at a distance, looking to see if everyone is ok.
•    Just because you find one baby on the ground (dead or alive), DO NOT bring the rest of the babies in to Liberty Wildlife. There may have been something wrong with that baby that caused a premature death and the parents threw it out to ‘clean up the nest’. Mother Nature can be cruel, but there may be a reason that the baby did not survive.
•    Please don’t assume the parents are gone, just because you don’t see them. They are also watching you (the predator) and staying away from their babies to protect them. Go away, watch from a distance.  When you do look, don’t stare.  Glance, look away for a while, glance again. Otherwise, you may disrupt the feeding process and the parents may abandon the nest and babies.

Want to know how you can help baby birds and learn all about them? Join the Liberty Wildlife Orphan Care Team! We have information sessions on the first and third Saturday of each month. For more details or to begin the volunteering process, please fill out an application on our website!  For wildlife emergencies please call our hotline at 480-998-5550.

Kid Stuff

Nurturing Nature

By Carol Suits

Liberty Wildlife Volunteer

Get Outside!
Keep your eyes open for adventure!

What was the last animal you saw outside? Do you remember? Follow this link to learn about making your own “life list”. Next, watch the video that shares cool photography tricks.


Outside Crafts
Is your yard or area nature friendly? This idea will provide water for birds to drink and take a bath.

This is the perfect time of year to plant your garden. Check out the steps to growing flowers and veggies.


Go on a neighborhood adventure!
This is a fun adventure to take with friends and adults. Find 5 “Neighborhood Safaris” here! Be sure to take along a camera and your life list.



Calendar of Events

You’re Invited!

For details, please visit our events calendar on our website at www.libertywildlife.org (click the EVENTS tab)