Assessment of exposure of metals through the ingestion of snowshoe hare and grouse for member of Swan River First Nation

Fiscal Year



Swan River First Nation, Alberta

Principal Investigator

Ave Dersch, Ph.D., Moccasin Flower Consulting

Community Project Lead

Darryel Sowan and Ave Dersch, Ph.D., Moccasin Flower Consulting

Project Members

Claire McAuley, M.Sc., Intrinsik Corp. and Dianne McKenzie



Project Summary

Traditional foods are an integral component of a healthy diet. However, members of the Swan River First Nations were concerned about the safety of consuming meat from small mammals and birds due to the encroachment of industrial activities on their traditional hunting and harvesting areas, specifically oil and gas resource developments. There have been many oil spills reported by community members in the traditional territory of Swan River First Nation and the contaminants released into the environment have the potential to impact birds and small game.

This study measured the concentrations of a suite of 31 metals, including arsenic, mercury, lead and cadmium in samples of snowshoe hare (muscle and liver) and grouse. A dietary survey was used to determine local consumption patterns. Based on the collected data, a health risk assessment of human exposure to metals from eating grouse and rabbit was carried out.

The results showed that many of the metal concentrations in grouse and rabbit were at low or non-detectable levels. However, lead and antimony concentrations were elevated in the meats  impacted by lead ammunition. The study concluded that small game meat with no impacts from lead ammunition can be safely consumed in quantities in excess of what was reported in the study. However, consumption of meat impacted by lead shot should be limited and the use of steel shot should be considered as a substitute. Additionally, smokers should be aware that grouse livers had measurable concentrations of cadmium and should be consumed in limited quantities as cigarette smoke also contains significant levels of cadmium.