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Keywords:

  • Canada goose;
  • consumption advisories;
  • contaminants;
  • ecotoxicology;
  • mallard;
  • mercury;
  • Virginia;
  • waterfowl hunting;
  • wood duck

Abstract

Many bodies of water around the world are contaminated with mercury from historic industrial and mining activities or ongoing atmospheric deposition, resulting in numerous fish consumption advisories. However, concerns about mercury have only rarely led to consumption advisories on waterfowl. In contrast with fish, waterfowl frequently disperse long distances to new watersheds, so hunters and wildlife managers do not know whether waterfowl at a pristine site have spent time at a contaminated site elsewhere. We sampled tissue mercury concentrations of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), wood ducks (Aix sponsa), and Canada geese (Branta canadensis) at a site contaminated with mercury, during the breeding and hunting seasons. We found that many mallards had bioaccumulated mercury to levels that had the potential to produce reproductive effects and exceeded consumption advisories set for fish by regulatory agencies, whereas this was true for only a few wood ducks and Canada geese. We also documented that mercury-exposed waterfowl from this contaminated site were harvested by hunters as far as 1,054 km away. Our results suggest the need for more proactive sampling of waterfowl for mercury, and likely other bioaccumulating contaminants, in order to allow hunters to make more informed choices about consumption of their harvest. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.