No one hunts the California Condor, one of the largest flying birds in the world. But the endangered bird has a problem only hunters can solve. Maya Springhawk Robnett of the Arizona Science Desk reports…
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just published its most recent 5-year review of the Southwest California Condor Program. Since 1996, captive breeding and release in Arizona, California, and Utah has increased the bird’s population nearly tenfold from a low of 22 in the early 1980s.
The review found lead poisoning accounts for 54% of diagnosed condor fatalities since monitoring began.
Condors are scavengers and can get lead poisoning from consuming the remains of animals shot with lead bullets.
Chris Parish with the Peregrine Fund, a group that aids Fish and Wildlife with the breeding program, says the major barrier to protecting condors is getting hunters to use non-lead bullets. Currently, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has an incentive program.
“Products that are available today in non-lead for rifle ammunition are mostly copper and those bullets are offered to the deer hunters—a box of free bullets for every deer hunter that draws a tag in the region adjacent to condors,” Parish explained.
More than 80% of those hunters participated in the lead reduction efforts but there is not a comparable program for varmint, predator, and small game hunters. Parish says educating more hunters on lead bullets is a major focus.