Efficacy of non-lead ammunition for culling elk at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Publication Year:

During 2010 to 2013, park staff and public volunteers culled 983 elk (Cervus elaphus) from Theodore Roosevelt National Park (United States) utilizing non-lead rifle ammunition as part of a sanctioned herd management operation. Because there is little empirical evidence available on the performance of non-lead ammunition, staff recorded information on tools and techniques relevant to the scenarios under which elk were culled and the outcome of each engagement. We also conducted a fi ring range experiment to evaluate the precision of nonlead ammunition used in park fi rearms. Specific objectives were to identify program factors predicting efficient destruction of elk with non-lead ammunition and to evaluate the precision of non-lead ammunition in National Park Service (NPS) fi rearms to facilitate accurate shot placement. To address these objectives, we conducted multivariate ordinal regression analyses of 13 variables, including bullet type, marksman type, shot distance, initial shot impact location, number of shots fi red, and need for a killing shot, as predictors of distance traveled by elk after being shot. Among 921 elk removals evaluated, mean shot distance was 182 meters, and the median and mode of distance traveled were 46 m and 0 m, respectively. Multivariate analyses revealed that shots to the head and neck were most effective, followed by those striking the shoulder and chest. Heavier bullets should be used whenever practical. Mean group size for non-lead ammunition fi red through NPS fi rearms was 50 mm at 91 m, with minimum and maximum group sizes of 18.8 and 98.6 mm, respectively. We found that non-lead ammunition provided the necessary precision for accurate shot placement in spot and stalk hunting conditions and that these bullets typically accomplished instantaneous or near-instantaneous incapacitation of elk whenever vital areas of the body were impacted. We conclude that non-lead bullets are effective for wildlife management and hunting scenarios. Keywords: ammunition, bullets, efficacy, elk, lead-free, management, non-lead, NPS.

Publication Title:

Human-Wildlife Interactions

Item Type:
Journal Article

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