SACRAMENTO — The California Fish and Game Commission Tuesday bowed to a federal court decision banning the use of lead shot in waterfowl hunting, and authorized a steel-shot-only hunting season in 16 California counties. Meeting by telephone, commission members voted, 4-0, to go ahead with the steel-shot season, which begins Oct. 9 along the Colorado River and Oct. 10 in northeastern California.
The commission's action followed a decision in Sacramento Monday by federal Judge Raul Ramirez, who upheld the right of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to forbid the use of lead shot in waterfowl hunting in California.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to eliminate the use of lead shot anywhere in the United States by 1991. Biologists say that spent lead shot in wetlands is consumed by ducks and geese, many of which then die of lead poisoning. Bald eagles, which eat dead waterfowl, also get lead poisoning, biologists say.
Many hunting groups, however, favor lead shot, claiming it is more accurate and more likely to result in clean kills, rather than crippled birds. Hunters also claim that steel shot damages their guns.