For Immediate Release, June 30, 2008
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185
Adam Keats, Center for Biological Diversity, ( 415) 436-9682 x304
Lead-free Ammunition Requirements for Hunting in
California Condor Range Go Into Effect July 1st
Non-toxic Bullets Will Help Prevent Condor, Eagle, and Human Poisonings
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— New state hunting regulations requiring the use of non-lead ammunition for most hunting activities in the range of the California condor in central and southern California go into effect tomorrow, July 1st. The regulations are designed to reduce the incidents of lead poisonings of the iconic and extremely endangered California condor. Condors, eagles, and other scavengers can consume lead-bullet fragments and lead-shot pellets from carcasses of animals shot by hunters. Seven southern California condors suffered lead poisoning in May, likely after feeding on lead-tainted carrion, and one died during treatment.
“California is taking an important step in getting toxic lead out of the food chain and hunters will now play a critical role in the recovery of the condor ,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We will continue to work for a statewide switch to non-lead ammunition to protect other wildlife poisoned by lead, such as eagles, and to safeguard human health.”
Lead poisoning from ingesting lead fragments in carcasses is the leading cause of death for reintroduced condors in California and Arizona. Since condors were reintroduced to California in 1992, at least 14 condor deaths in the state have been confirmed or linked to lead poisoning, and dozens more poisoned condors have required invasive, life-saving chelation therapy to “de-lead” their blood after feeding on lead-tainted carcasses.
The Center for Biological Diversity and a coalition of health and conservation organizations, hunters, and Native Americans launched a “Get the Lead Out” campaign in 2004 to eliminate lead from condor habitat. Several years and one lawsuit later, Assembly Bill 821, the Ridley-Tree Condor Preservation Act, was signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger last fall. The Act requires hunters to use non-lead ammunition for hunting all big game (such as deer, elk, pigs, and bighorn sheep) and shooting coyotes within the condor range, which encompasses all or portions of 13 central and southern counties and seven deer-hunting zones. The California Fish and Game Commission approved additional regulations in December of 2007 that expand the non-lead requirements to hunting of non-game mammals and non-game birds (and prohibit the use of lead .22-caliber and smaller-rimfire cartridges for non-game hunting) in the condor range.
The California condor is one of the world’s most endangered species. As of April 2008, only 151 of the birds were flying free in the wild, 80 of them in California. Scientific studies provide overwhelming evidence that the lead poisoning condors comes from ammunition fragments in carcasses and gut piles left behind in the condor range by hunters. In 2007, more than 45 prominent wildlife biologists signed a “Statement of Scientific Agreement ” concluding that lead ammunition is the primary source of the lead that is poisoning condors.
A recent conference sponsored by the Peregrine Fund, Ingestion of Spent Lead Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans, presented compelling scientific evidence of significant risk to human health, as well as harm to condors and other wildlife, from the use of lead ammunition for hunting. In a recent Peregrine Fund study of deer killed by hunters, x-rays revealed that lead bullets explode into dozens of tiny pieces. Half the deer carcasses in the study were riddled with at least 100 lead fragments, raising human health concerns for those eating wild game shot with lead. Lead is an extremely poisonous metal – even very low levels can cause neural degeneration, digestive paralysis, brain injury, and mental retardation, especially in children.
The poisoning of Southern California condors in May is suspected to be due to ingestion of lead ammunition in carcasses shot by hunters on Tejon Ranch. Although Tejon Ranch Corporation announced a ban on lead ammunition for all hunting and predator control beginning last fall, and claims on its Web site that it requires the use of non-lead ammunition for all hunting on its property, Tejon has been slow to implement the ban. The recent condor poisonings suggest that it is not enforcing its own rule. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will run an analysis of the metal fragments that poisoned these birds on July 9th.
Tejon has applied for a federal permit to “take” or harm condors and other rare wildlife in association with its massive development plans in the Tehachapi Mountains north of Los Angeles. Tejon seeks to exclude its hunting program from the list of activities covered by the permit, in spite of the fact that AC-8, one of the last condors to be born in the wild, was shot and killed on Tejon Ranch in a pig-hunting event in 2003.
Safe, reliable non-lead bullets and shot made from copper and other materials are widely available for big-game hunting and perform as well as, or better than, lead ammunition. Federal law already requires the use of non-lead shot for waterfowl hunting, to prevent lead poisoning of waterfowl and eagles. Over 150 types and calibers of non-lead rifle and pistol bullets and non-lead shot are available that may be legal for hunting in California. A list of certified bullets, packaged ammunition and a map of the areas encompassed by the ban are available at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/condor/.
More information about the lead-poisoning threat can be found at www.savethecondors.org.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 180,000 members and online activists dedicated to protecting endangered species and wild places. www.biologicaldiversity.org