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Reporting on science, technology and innovation in Arizona and the Southwest through a collaboration from Arizona NPR member stations. This project is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Additional stories from the Arizona Science Desk are posted at our collaborating station, KJZZ:

Conservationists Reach out to Hunters to Help Save California Condor

Chris Parish
The Peregrine Fund
California Condor

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.

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