‘It’s important to get lead out of our marshes’


Assistant swan keeper Mary Cameron looks despairingly at the trumpeter swans in the birds' enclosure, wondering which one may be next.

Everyone at the Wye Marsh in Midland, Ontario has good reason to be concerned about trumpeter swan deaths. Within one week this month, two more were killed by lead poisoning.

Bob Whittam, director of the Wye Marsh, has called for an end to the use of lead in any form if it ends up being dumped in the environment."Two more Swans have died from lead poisoning and that is a bad omen for the trumpeter swan re-introduction program," Whittam' said. "The positive news, though, is that it's a good plus to try to get lead banned throughout the province."  It's not an anti-hunting measure as much as an anti- lead measure, he said, calling for the use of non-toxic shot instead.

The primary source of lead poisoning in the trumpeters is spent shot, which is dispersed while hunters are waterfowl hunting,  Lead sinkers used by anglers are blamed to a lesser extent.  The lead gets into the food chain when it is ingested by a fish. That fish could then be eaten by a bird, and so on.

 "We've had more than a dozen swans die since the (re-introduction) program began, " Whittam said. "Therefore, it is important that we get the lead out, as they say, from our Ontario marshes once and for all".

In the Wye Marsh, a provincially recognized conservation area, waterfowl hunting with lead shot has been banned since 1993. Hunters are allowed to use only steel shot and bismuth within the marsh boundaries..  Whittam would like to see waterfowl hunting with lead banned across all of southern Ontario.


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