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California condors shot: $55,000 reward for shooters

California Condor. Photo courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service/Scott Frier
condor flying

It’s bad enough that California condors are frequently poisoned by lead ammo-killed game, but last month two of the highly endangered birds were themselves found shot full of lead bullets.

The Center for Biological Diversity, determined to bring the perp (perps?) to justice, has established a $30,000 reward … and Santa Barbara’s Wendy P. McCaw Foundation has pledged another $25,000 of the total … after the announcement that biologists found a young female condor with three shotgun pellets lodged in her wing and thigh.

Sadly, this was just three weeks after finding another condor shot full of 15 pellets.
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Posted on Friday, April 10th, 2009
Under: California condors, Endangered species | No Comments »

It’s time to BAN lead bullets throughout California & the U.S.

California condor
condor flying

Just received this information from my friend Jeff Miller, Conservation Advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco. /Gary

From Jeff:

Hunters Embrace Lead-free Ammunition Regulations in California

More New Non-toxic Bullets Available to Prevent Condor Poisonings
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Posted on Thursday, February 12th, 2009
Under: California condors, Hunting, Lead bullets | 27 Comments »

Endangered Species Act is now endangered … by Bush

The endangered California Condor is one of the world’s rarest birds. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Scott Frier

Last minute Bush rules changes threaten American wildlife

Last-minute changes to the Endangered Species Act just announced by the Bush administration will dramatically weaken and limit the use of the landmark wildlife protection law, according to scientists and attorneys at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
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Posted on Monday, December 15th, 2008
Under: California condors, Endangered species, President Bush | No Comments »

California Condor gets lead-free protection from toxic heavy metal

California Condor photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Scott Frier

Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council Help Extend Lead-Ammunition Ban to Protect Iconic Birds

LOS ANGELES — A settlement announced today between environmentalists and the State of California will strengthen protections for California condors by placing limits on the use of ammunition containing lead throughout the species’ range.
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Posted on Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Under: California condors, Lead bullets | 9 Comments »

Is this another plot by “anti-gun” nuts to ban guns?

On Oct. 9, I wrote here about the California Fish and Game Commission meeting on Oct. 11-12 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 45 John Glenn Drive, Concord, in the Cedar Room. I asked you to please attend the meeting and when it was time for public comments, to stand up and ask the commissioners to support a ban on the use of lead bullets in the endangered California condor range.

This got a response in “Comments” at the end of my blog:
“This is another idiotic environmental wacko proposal. By demonizing lead, the anti-gun nuts believe that they have taken one more incremental step toward banning guns and ammunition. Let’s be honest, this is another feel-good meddling idea. What are the actual odds that a hunter will use lead in any form to shoot a game animal and then just walk off and leave it to that a condor will find the carcass before other scavengers get to it. Then consume exactly the right amount of the dead animal to cause the death of the Condor. Perhaps one in 100 million to one?? Please, leave the shooters alone. They will just go to bismuth or some other heavy shot replacement. Stick to your cute back yard stories Gary and leave the wacko politics to the enviro-nuts. — Posted by Larry Ward, October 9, 2007 11:01 AM

I beg to differ. This has nothing to do with anti-gun nuts, or banning guns, or ammunition, or hunters. It has to do with changing the TYPE of ammunition used in the condor refuges … from lead to something else that won’t poison these endangered birds.

As to the actual odds that lead from bullets will poison condors?

Here’s a sampling of the reports in my very thick “Condors vs. Lead” file:
Twelve California condors have died of lead poisoning since the program started in 1992, according to the Ventana Wilderness Society. That’s a conservative estimate, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, which has reported at least 15 condor deaths linked to lead since the reintroduction began.

In July of this year, a consortium of 44 scientists announced that lead bullets have been the main cause of lead poisoning in the Calif. condor population. Dr. Don Smith, chair of the toxicology department at University of California, Santa Cruz, says isotopes found in lead bullet samples and in condor blood were significantly similar.

On top of the two condors poisoned this summer, 11 from Pinnacles National Monument had to be treated last summer for elevated lead levels. Five condors recently suffered from acute lead poisoning, after feeding on a wild pig carcass killed by hunters near Pinnacles.

Check out this Washington Post story on condors and lead poisoning from today’s paper.

Anyone who really cares about these giant endangered birds should trot right over to this morning’s meeting of the California Fish and Game Commission and ask them to ban the use of lead bullets in the condor range. The meeting starts at 8:30 a.m.

And now, back to my cute back yard stories. /Gary

Posted on Friday, October 12th, 2007
Under: California condors | No Comments »

Get the lead out!

Banning lead bullets will help save condors.
The Center for Biological Diversity protects endangered species and wild places through science, policy, education, and environmental law. This organization has been one of the main leaders in the long fight to ban the use of lead bullets in the current California condor range.

Condors feed primarily on dead animals — many of them deer, wild pigs, etc., that have been shot by hunters. The giant birds are poisoned when they ingest the lead bullets and bullet fragments. According to a story in today’s Times by MediaNews staff writer Paul Rogers, “ … 13 condors have been confirmed killed by lead in Arizona and California since the birds were introduced in the wild 15 years ago. And roughly one-third of the birds in Northern California have been found with high, sometimes dangerously high, lead levels in their blood.”

The California Fish and Game Commission will take public testimony at their April 13 meeting in Bodega Bay on a Dept. of Fish and Game proposal to end the use of lead ammunition in the current condor range, beginning this fall. The lead bullets would be replaced by copper bullets that can be used by hunters.

If you have not already, please visit the “Take Action” page on condors, posted by the Center for Biological Diversity, to send a message to the Commission to get the lead out for California condors:

The debate between hunters and environmentalists on whether or not to ban lead bullets has gone on for long enough. Each delay means more dead condors. Please ask the Fish and Game Commission to ban those lead bullets NOW.

If you need more information, the Center for Biological Diversity has provided the links below to recent media articles on the campaign to switch to non-lead ammunition to protect California condors:

San Jose Mercury News 3-28-07
Lead Bullet Ban Proposed For Condor Range Gaining Traction
Science may tip scales in environmentalists’ favor

Sonora Union Democrat 3-27-07
Lead Bullets Under Fire In California

Monterey Herald 3-7-07
Lead Bullet Ban Awaits Panel
Fish and Game Commission considering four possible courses of action

High Country News 3-5-07
Getting The Lead Out
A proposed ban on lead ammo in California could save condors

See for information about DFG’s proposed regulations.

See for the Commission meeting location and agenda.

Visit for more information about the lead poisoning issue.

Visit the Center for Biological Diversity Web site at

You can also get more information by contacting Jeff Miller, Conservation Advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, 1095 Market Street, Suite 511, San Francisco, CA 94103 — 415- 436-9682 ext. 303; Fax 415-436-9683.

Let’s get the lead out … NOW!

Posted on Thursday, March 29th, 2007
Under: California condors | 1 Comment »

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 »