For Immediate Release, August 24, 2007
Contact: Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185
California Fish and Game Commission Hearing Monday
On Lead-Free Ammunition to Protect California Condors
SAN FRANCISCO– Conservationists will urge the state of California to end the use of toxic lead ammunition in the range of the critically endangered California condor at a California Fish and Game Commission special hearing in Sacramento on August 27th . The Commission will take public testimony on a Department of Fish and Game proposal to amend state game-hunting regulations to require non-lead ammunition in the condor range. The hearing begins at 10:00 a.m. at the California Resources Building, 1416 Ninth Street in Sacramento.
The hearing follows on the heels of the death of a condor this month in southern California from lead poisoning. Condor #245 had blood lead levels 50 times the amount that would require emergency action for a human child and more than 10 times the amount to trigger treatment in condors. To reach blood-lead levels of this magnitude, a condor must ingest lead fragments directly. In July more than 45 prominent wildlife biologists signed a “Statement of Scientific Agreement” concluding that lead ammunition is the source of lead poisoning condors.
“The evidence is clear that lead ammunition fragments are poisoning endangered condors and it’s time to get the lead out of the condor range,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The condor is on the California state quarter as a symbol of our natural heritage, but if condors are to survive we need to switch to lead-free ammo to get the lead out of their food supply.”
The Fish and Game Commission is currently considering several options requiring the use of non-lead ammunition for hunting big-game mammals, non-game birds and mammals, including potential regulations for the currently occupied condor range, the extended condor range, and statewide. It states that final action on this issue may occur later this year and would take effect no earlier than July 1, 2008. At the hearing on Monday it will be seeking information on a comprehensive list of non-lead bullets and calibers currently manufactured for hunting, the capability of ammunition manufacturers and retailers to respond to an increase in non-lead bullet demand, and the estimated cost of non-lead bullets.
The Center for Biological Diversity is urging the Commission to end the use of lead ammunition immediately for hunting in the condor range, where safe, reliable lead-free bullets and shot are readily available, as well as to phase out the use of all lead ammunition for hunting statewide to protect eagles and other avian species that scavenge carrion.
The California condor is one of the world’s most endangered species. Only 127 of the birds currently fly free in the wild, 70 of them in California. Lead poisoning from ingesting lead ammunition found in carcasses is the leading cause of death for reintroduced condors. Since 1992 at least 15 condor deaths in California and Arizona are known or suspected to have been caused by lead poisoning, and on more than 75 occasions poisoned condors required invasive, life-saving chelation therapy to “de-lead” their blood after feeding on lead-tainted carcasses. Five scientific studies published in 2006 provide overwhelming evidence that the lead ammunition poisoning condors comes from carcasses and gut piles left behind in the condor range by hunters.
In 2005 the Center launched a “Get the Lead Out” campaign to eliminate lead bullets from condor habitat. The Center and a coalition of health and conservation organizations, hunters and American Indians filed a lawsuit against the state last fall for continuing to allow hunting with toxic lead ammunition. Safe, reliable non-lead bullets and shot made from copper and other materials are widely available for big-game hunting and perform as well or better than lead ammunition. Federal law already requires the use of non-lead shot when hunting waterfowl, due to widespread lead poisoning of both waterfowl and secondary poisoning of eagles.
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 were riddled with at least 100 lead fragments, raising human health concerns for those eating wild game shot with lead ammunition.
More information about the lead poisoning threat can be found at www.savethecondors.org.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, science-based nonprofit organization with 35,000 members dedicated to protecting endangered species and wild places. www.biologicaldiversity.org