Conservation advocates want to phase out lead ammunition
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — With another three endangered California condors dead from lead poisoning in Arizona, conservation advocates are ramping up their call to phase out the use of lead ammunition.
Three condors may not sound like many, but that’s nearly 5 percent of the entire Arizona-Utah population, which numbers only about 80 birds. Seven of the birds have died since December, and three of the deaths are definitively linked with lead poisoning, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
Since condors eat carrion, they ingest spent lead ammunition fragments as part of their diet. Lead poisoning is also suspected in the other four deaths. At least 38 condors have been killed by lead poisoning in Arizona and Utah. Lead poisoning recently killed the female of Utah’s only breeding pair of condors. Each year, up to half of the wild Grand Canyon condors must be given life-saving, emergency blood treatment for lead poisoning.
“The continuous deaths of Grand Canyon condors from lead poisoning is preventable if we finally treat toxic lead ammunition as we did lead paint and leaded gasoline,” said Jeff Miller, with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s clear that voluntary efforts to reduce lead ammunition use around the Grand Canyon aren’t getting the job done. Given the wide availability, lowered cost and high performance of lead-free ammo, these states should admit it’s time to switch and require nontoxic rounds for hunting.”
California condors are the biggest land birds in North America. They are also the most endangered. Of the 166 condors reintroduced into Utah and Arizona since 1996, 81 have died or disappeared. When the cause of death could be determined, more than half were due to poisoning from ingesting lead ammunition fragments left in gut piles or carcasses of shot game.
“Lead is dangerous to people and wildlife, even at very low levels, which is why it is critical that we take mandatory actions to remove it from ammunition and require less toxic alternatives,” said Sandy Bahr with the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Requiring non-lead ammunition for hunting on public land would be an important step in limiting lead exposure for condors and other wildlife.”
Since 2008 California has required nonlead ammunition for all hunting within the condors’ range in central and Southern California. Hunters in these areas have transitioned to nonlead bullets, with no decrease in game tags or hunting since the regulations went into effect. The California state legislature is currently considering a bill that would extend the ban on lead in hunting ammunition throughout the state.
Last month, 30 leading scientists, doctors and public-health experts from Harvard, Cornell, Rutgers and other major universities released a statement that lead hunting ammunition poses a serious danger to people and wildlife and ought to be phased out. Read more about the Center for Biological Diversity’s Get the Lead Out campaign.