There were a total of 182 deaths of trumpeter swans at Judson Lake over the past winter, according to the Save the Swans website. The lake has the heaviest lead concentration of any known lake, the website states. (PHOTO: savetheswans.ca)

There were a total of 182 deaths of trumpeter swans at Judson Lake over the past winter, according to the Save the Swans website. The lake has the heaviest lead concentration of any known lake, the website states. (PHOTO: savetheswans.ca)

Abbotsford man starts petition, saying lead shot is killing waterfowl in Judson Lake and beyond

Farmer Kevin Sinclair says local lake is ‘poster child’ for swans’ deaths from lead poisoning

A House of Commons petition initiated by an Abbotsford man and adopted by Abbotsford MP Ed Fast is calling for the elimination of lead shot due to its detrimental impact on waterfowl.

The petition was started by Kevin Sinclair, an Abbotsford farmer whose property includes the entire Canadian portion of Judson Lake, home to hundreds of trumpeter swans.

Sinclair says the 100-acre lake is the “primary source responsible for most of the 3,000-plus swan mortalities” over two decades in Canada and the U.S.

Sinclair started a website, titled Save the Swans, which states that both the Canadian Wildlife Service and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recorded 182 swan deaths at Judson Lake over the past winter (2020-21).

“The unsuspecting swans arrive at Judson Lake in late October each year and mistake the toxic lead shot in the lake floor and tangled in pond lily roots for grit. By late November and into December, the death rate increases significantly,” the website states.

RELATED: B.C. wildlife experts urge hunters to switch ammo to stop lead poisoning in birds

The site says that lead poisoning can appear as early as four days after ingestion of as few as two or three pellets, with death occurring in 17-21 days.

“It is commonplace for swans to be pulled out of Judson Lake with dozen of pellets in their gizzards,” the page states.

The website says Judson Lake has the heaviest lead concentration of any known lake and is “thought to be the source of 70 per cent of swan poisoning over the last decade.”

Sinclair says Judson Lake is just “the poster child” of the larger problem of lead shot from hunting and shooting activity being deposited into the environment.

“It’s a poignant illustration of how hard it is to remove this toxic waste product once the damage is done,” he said.

Sinclair said there are a number of non-toxic alternatives on the market that are cost-effective, and “many of which outperform lead shot.”

RELATED: Sick eagle in East Kootenay town sparks call for lead bullet restriction

His petition states that the Canadian Wildlife Service estimates an average of 240,000 to 360,000 waterfowl die each year of lead poisoning from lead-shot ingestion.

Without any restrictions, the use of lead ammunition is expected to increase over the next decade, and the level of lead in the environment is expected to increase from approximately 5,000 tonnes (2016) to 5,800 tonnes by 2025, the petition indicates.

It calls for lead shot to be placed on the “virtual elimination list” under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Signatures are being collected until Aug. 30. The petition can be found by searching “e-3459” at petitions.ourcommons.ca.



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Judson Lake spans Canada-U.S. border. The Canadian portion in Abbotsford is located just west of Clearbrook Road. (Google Maps)

Judson Lake spans Canada-U.S. border. The Canadian portion in Abbotsford is located just west of Clearbrook Road. (Google Maps)