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Archive for March, 2007

Are lead-free bullets enough to save endangered 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:

Posted on Thursday, March 1st, 2007
Under: California condors | 4 Comments »