Recreational Shooting of Piute Ground Squirrels and the Potential for Lead Uptake by Scavengers

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Benjamin Pauli


Recreational shooting of Piute ground squirrels (Urocitellus mollis, PGS) is a common occurrence throughout the western United States. Carcasses of PGS shot with lead ammunition may contain significant amounts of lead due to bullet fragmentation. Because many shooters do not collect shot PGS carcasses, a direct pathway may exist for lead entering the environment which poses the risk of lead uptake in scavenging animals. To quantify the amount of bullet fragments present, we collected PGS carcasses that had been shot and measured the area and density of individual bullet fragments using radiograph images and image analysis software. We also used distance sampling techniques to estimate the density of PGS carcasses after recreational shooting had occurred. Finally, we determined the fate of shot PGS carcasses in the field by setting motion-activated cameras near multiple carcasses to record scavenging species. Together, we used these data to calculate the risk of lead exposure to scavenging animals in high frequency shooting locations. This research may provide further insight into management needs for areas where lead from recreational shooting of ground squirrels may be negatively affecting wildlife.

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