Lead Poisoning Continues to Hinder California Condor Population Recovery, and Harm Other Bird Species

Lead Poisoning Continues to Hinder California Condor Population Recovery, and Harm Other Bird Species

Brianna Elliott
Published: 04/19/2013

California requires hunters in condor’s ranges in central and Southern California to use non-lead ammunition, such as copper, and California state legislature is currently considering a bill to ban lead ammunition throughout the state. Audubon California is co-sponsoring this legislation alongside the Humane Society of the United States and Defenders of Wildlife. Additionally, some groups, like the Institute for Wildlife Studies and its’ partners, provide ammunition demonstrations where hunters can practice lead and copper shooting with a range of calibers, for free. 

Arizona, meanwhile, has a voluntary lead-reduction program and distributes free copper ammunition to hunters in the condor’s range. The Arizona Fish and Game Department reports that this program has lead to 80 to 90% participation within hunters since 2007, although lead exposure still occurs in Arizona condors, particularly during the fall hunting season. 

A lead-ammunition ban would protect more than just condors, including bald and golden eagles and red-tailed hawks, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.   

Last month, a group of scientists, doctors, and public heath experts released a page-long statement, citing the dangers of lead ammunition. “We, the undersigned, with scientific expertise in lead and environmental health, endorse the overwhelming scientific evidence on the toxic effects of lead on human and wildlife health,” states the group. “In light of this evidence, we support the reduction and eventual elimination of lead released to the environment through the discharge of lead-based ammunition, in order to protect human and environmental health.”

Additionally, the Center for Biological Diversity is leading a “Get the Lead Out” campaign to gather signatures for an anti-lead petition it will send to the EPA. The Center has filed several lawsuits in the past decade against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and most recently, the Environmental Protection Agency, for refusing to address a previous petition to ban lead ammunition. 

“Lead is dangerous to people and wildlife, even at very low levels, which is why it is critical that we take mandatory actions to remove it from ammunition and require less toxic alternatives,” says Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter in the same press release. “Requiring nonlead ammunition for hunting on public land would be an important step in limiting lead exposure for condors and other wildlife.”

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