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Are lead-free bullets enough to save endangered condors?

By Gary Bogue
Thursday, March 1st, 2007 at 7:58 am in California condors.

More than $40 million to date has been invested in the condor reintroduction program and it is simply mind-blowing that a private company would now be allowed to destroy a major portion of the giant bird’s primary habitat.

This also raises a rather unpleasant question. If it turns out there isn’t enough habitat left to support the California condors, is it time to cancel the condor reintroduction program and declare the species extinct?

With all of the above in mind, check out this excerpt from a recent press release from the Center for Biological Diversity, an organization that protects endangered species and wild places:

LOS ANGELES — Tejon Ranch Corporation recently announced that non-lead ammunition will be required for all hunting and predator control on the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch starting this fall, to protect the endangered California condors who forage in critical condor habitat on the ranch.

The switch to non-lead ammunition will reduce the threat of lead poisoning, which is the leading cause of death for reintroduced condors, still teetering on the brink of extinction.

Tejon Ranch property covers a large part of the California condor’s vital core habitat.

“We applaud Tejon Ranch’s decision to get the lead out for condors, and if the state’s largest private landholder can go lead-free, then the rest of California should be able to follow suit,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Unfortunately, the urban-sprawl developments planned for Tejon Ranch are also a gun to the head of condor recovery efforts. If Tejon pulls the trigger on these developments the resulting habitat destruction and disturbance could prove just as lethal to condors as any bullet.”

The move to lead-free ammunition provides a significant conservation benefit for condors and ratchets up the pressure on the state of California to regulate lead bullets in condor habitat and stop lead poisoning. The Center is part of a coalition of health and conservation organizations, hunters and American Indians that filed a lawsuit against the state last fall for continuing to allow hunting with toxic lead ammunition.

Safe, reliable bullets and shot made from copper and other materials are widely available for hunting and perform as well or better than lead ammunition.

The California Fish and Game Commission began a review of the state game-hunting regulations last month and is considering amendments to eliminate lead ammunition, either within the condor range or statewide. The commission will take public comments through April.

“Eliminating lead bullets is a step in the right direction, but Tejon is poised to take several steps backward with developments that will destroy the unique values and ecological integrity of Tejon Ranch,” said Center biologist Ileene Anderson. “Tejon’s proposed 28,500-acre Tejon Mountain Village will devastate the heart of the condor’s critical habitat.”

Tejon Mountain Village would convert 38,000 acres of oak-studded mesas and canyons in the Tehachapi mountains — much of which is designated critical habitat for condors — into luxury homes, golf courses, commercial space and hotels.

The California condor is one of the most imperiled animals in the world and was so close to extinction in 1987 that the last five wild birds were then rounded up to start a captive-breeding program. The government began releasing condors in 1992, and there are now about 130 condors in the wild, 68 of them in California.

Of 127 condors released in California from 1992 through 2006, 46 birds (36 percent) died or disappeared and are presumed dead. Scientists say poisoning from scavenging carcasses tainted by lead ammunition is likely responsible for many of the deaths.

The Center and a coalition of conservation organizations representing close to 2 million citizens are calling on state and federal officials to balance conservation and development by planning the whole ranch to avoid piecemeal development and protecting 245,000 acres of Tejon Ranch as a new national or state park.

Visit the Center for Biological Diversity’s Web site for more information about lead ammunition poisoning of condors and the campaign to save Tejon Ranch from development:
Center for Biological Diversity’s Web site:
Lead ammunition poisoning:
Save Tejon Ranch:

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4 Responses to “Are lead-free bullets enough to save endangered condors?”

  1. David Mulkearns Says:

    What a crock of shit…scientists say poisoning from scavenging carcasses tainted by lead ammunition is likely responsible for many of the deaths. This is ridiculous..
    The more likely cause of the death is power lines and building on the condors range… but go ahead blame the bullets…

  2. Eric Mills, Action for Animals Says:

    The deaths of a number of condors due to ingesting lead shot are well documented, hardly a “crock,” as Mr. Mulkearns would have it.

    Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara) has re-introduced Assembly bill 821, which would restrict the use of lead shot in the condor’s present California range. It deserves our support. All legislators may be written c/o The State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814.

    The toxicity of lead shot has been known for decades. That’s precisely why we have a nationwide ban on lead shot for all waterfowl hunting. There should be a similar ban on its use for all land-based hunting as well. Common sense, one would think.

    And it’s not only the condors who suffer. There’s a host of scavengers also at risk: bald eagles, coyotes, foxes, skunks, badgers, vultures, dogs, etc.

    Those in doubt should attend any of the Fish & Game Commission meetings held monthly throughout the state. (The Commission meets in Bodega Bay on April 12 & 13. The October 11 & 12 meeting is in Concord.)
    To get on their mailing list (free), call the Commission at 916/653-4899.

  3. gary hastings Says:

    this is just a back door to ban hunting, firarms,fishing. the government needs another law they can’t effectively enforce. I’m glad they have been able reintroduce the condor and it looks they’re doing a great job. but don’t tread on my rights. I still have not scene how many condors have died of a lead bullet. It appears the biggest detrimate is power lines and Southern California sprawl.

  4. D L Dunnington Says:

    I didn’t think they would take half the state for crying out loud,from the coast to the sierra nevada.I remember in the early 60s a pair flew through Pinehurst and no one has seen one sense,just another ploy like the spotted owl. Restrict hunting to expensive lead free bullets and not one person looks at the smog that moves down the valley from the bay area and Sacramento builds up to around 5000 ft and rolls right into THE CONDOR SAFE ZONE. Come on folk grab hold and pull real hard before you suffocate yourself. Take a ride to the kings canyon and sequoia parks make sure to stop at the redwood canyon overlook in the AM look out over the valley and see the crap out there. The birds are not stupid,if you can’t breath the air you go where you can,like Mexico. If hunting with lead is really really bad how about depleted uranium,just a thought,it just about as stupid as this law Long term its not going to help less people hunting no fees for fish and game from hunting lic. and just think it all started from someones best guess,because their statement of facts is at best a guess,they just don’t know.

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