California Votes to Ban Lead Ammunition
The California Senate recently passed legislation to ban lead
ammunition that is poisoning endangered California Condors. The bill,
sponsored by Assemblyman Pedro Nava is designed to protect condors by
requiring hunters to use non toxic ammunition for hunting deer and wild
pigs and varmints, so that condors, which are scavengers, will not
consume lead particles in any carcasses not recovered or left in the
field. The measure also creates a program that would provide coupons to
hunters venturing into condor territory that subsidize the cost of
lead-free, copper bullets. "American Bird Conservancy applauds the
California Senate?s action and urges Governor Schwarzenegger to sign
the lead-ammunition ban into law to protect the California Condor,"
said Dr. Michael Fry, American Bird Conservancy?s Director of
Conservation Advocacy who testified before the California Fish and Game
Commission and advocated on behalf of the legislation. "With
alternative ammunition now available for hunting that doesn?t use lead
? there is no logical basis on which to oppose this ban."
The California Fish and Game Commission held a hearing August
28 on the proposed ban. Commissioners indicated they support opening a
public comment period so that a decision to enact a ban can be made at
the commission?s Nov. 1 meeting.
Five condors recently were poisoned from acute lead
contamination after the birds fed on a pig carcass killed by hunters
near the Pinnacles National Monument, where condors have been recently
released into the wild. An additional condor died of lead poisoning
last week, after being discovered by biologists in a separate incident
near Bittercreek National Wildlife Refuge in central California.
"There are less than 300 California Condors in existence,"
said Dr. Fry. "We can?t afford to lose even one ? particularly when
that loss is easily preventable."
There have been 276 documented cases of lead poisoning of
California Condors not including this most recent example. In 2006
biologists trapped 11 condors at Pinnacles National Monument in
California that were seen feeding on squirrels known to have been shot
with lead ammunition. They were temporarily housed in captivity at the
Los Angeles Zoo while their blood was tested for traces of lead and
they were X-rayed to identify lead fragments in their digestive tracts.
Any birds testing positive for lead were given calcium-EDTA to help
them eliminate the heavy metal from their systems, and some underwent
surgery to remove lead pieces from their crops.
Although lead shot is outlawed for the hunting of waterfowl,
lead rifle bullets and .22 rim-fire ammunition are still permitted. The
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified lead in ammunition as a
significant threat to condors.