From the August issue of Scientific American:
Those pesky Canadian geese. First they took over the Northeast, laying waste on suburban lawns. Now they have moved south to Oak Ridge, Tenn., where some of them have become too hot to handle. In fact, they have become radioactive -- as have some white-tail deer and mallards, gadwalls and other waterfowl on the 35,300-acre Oak Ridge Reservation.
One Oak Ridge goose had 3,950 picocuries of radioactive cesium 137 per gram of breast meat. In terms of Christmas dinner, just one pound would deliver almost 100 millirems, which is the generally accepted standard for annual exposure. Officials for Martin Marietta Energy Systems, the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge contractor, insist the situation is not dangerous. "There is no way that would cause any health effects," says James G. Rogers, coordinator of environmental protection activity. Rogers says handling such a goose would expose someone to "much less than a chest X-ray."
But eating contaminated game may be another matter. The low-level waste contains radionuclides that can remain in the body for many years. Cesium 137, with a half-life of 30 years, concentrates in muscle tissue; strontium 90, with a half-life of 27 years, is deposited in bone. "The prevailing consensus is that there is danger of damage at any level," says Scott Saleska, staff scientist at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.
Despite the DOE's claims that wandering wildlife are not worrisome, contamination has necessitated the killing of between five to eight geese each year since 1985. ... And the DOE is studying geese and other Oak Ridge waterfowl to determine their radiation levels and tagging them to see how far they roam.