On Friday (Oct. 11), Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed the nation’s first law banning the use of lead bullets in hunting into law. The bill was written to slow the decline of the California condor, which ingests the lead bullets when scavenging at hunters’ gut piles or when eating the bodies of animals shot but not killed by hunters. The law contains an escape clause that will revoke the ban if the federal government bans non-lead bullets because of the armor-piercing abilities.
California had previously banned lead bullets in the areas of the state where there are condors. It is the first state in the nation to ban lead bullets.
One odd fact, the bill was signed in a group of 11 bills. Most of the other of the bills in the group focused on gun control. Protests against banning lead bullets for hunting have often portrayed the bill as a gun control measure rather than a wildlife conservation and human health measure.
Read the Los Angeles Times article here.
Read the KCET blog post here.
Find a Google list of other news articles here.
California banned lead ammunition within the range of the endangered California condors (Gymnogyps californianus) in 2008. Now environmental groups are moving to take the ban statewide to protect the condor and other large scavenging birds such as bald eagles from lead poisoning. The National Rifle Association protests.
An article in the San Jose Mercury News reports the NRA saying that because copper bullets cost $40 a box and don’t fly as true, while lead bullets cost $20 a box, the ban is equivalent to a ban on hunting, and that the groups’ ultimate goal is to ban guns. (The article also quotes an Audubon spokesman saying that of course the group does not oppose either hunting nor guns.)
An article in the British newspaper The Guardian links to a recent Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences paper detailing the condors’ vulnerability to lead poisoning from ammunition. It seems the condors are such effective scavengers that even if only one percent of the carcasses or gut piles contain lead ammunition, 30 to 50 percent of the condors will feed from one of them.
Read the San Jose Mercury News article here.
Read The Guardian article here.
Find the PNAS abstract here. (Fee or subscription needed for full access.)
Photo: California condor by Scott Frier, courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department
According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department:
A review of the 2007-2011 period of the California condor reintroduction program in northern Arizona and southern Utah was recently completed and identifies a number of successes, including an increase in the free-ranging population, consistent use of seasonal ranges by condors and an increased number of breeding pairs. However, exposure to lead contamination from animal carcasses and gut piles left in the field continues to limit the success of the program. The team made several recommendations to address the lead issue.
You can read the rest of the press release on the AZGFD website, here. It’s the third item on the page.
Go straight to the news with this Peregrine Fund press release. (I think it says exactly the same thing.)
On Saturday (Sept. 29), the reintroduction continues with 17th public release of condors in Arizona since the recovery program began in 1996. At this event three endangered California condors will be released to the wild.
Read more about it in the AZGFD’s Wildlife News. It’s the sixth item from the top and is followed by another release praising Arizona hunters for voluntarily reducing their use of lead bullets to help the condors survive.
Photo: California condor, courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department.