Swan deaths in Iowa offer lessons on the long shadow of environmental harms

March 1, 2024 9:50 AM

The use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting was banned in Iowa in 1987 in an attempt to spare birds the agonizing effects of lead poisoning resulting from their incidental consumption of spent shot. It was the same year I was born and four years before a nationwide ban was instituted to reduce the long-documented impacts of lead poisoning on water-feeding birds like ducks, geese, and swans. Nearly four decades later, incidences of lead poisoning have declined, but some long-term impacts still linger.

This month, more than 20 trumpeter swans in southern Hamilton County died of lead poisoning (some were rescued and are being treated). While the exact source is unknown, it is quite possible the lead that doomed these birds was deposited prior to the 1987 ban. Scientists call this “legacy lead” because it persists in the environment, despite modern abatement efforts. It’s a reminder that the decisions we make today could have lasting implications for decades to come.....

Read the whole article published in the Des Moines Register at this link.


Adam Janke Associate Professor

Adam Janke is the statewide Wildlife Extension Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Adam is a trained wildlife biologist, having received a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in wildlife conservation and ecology from three land-grant schools in the Midwest.  He is also certified ...