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California condor
San Jose Mercury News, April 5, 2009

Second condor found shot with illegal ammo
Bay City News Service

A California condor has been found shot with lead buckshots by biologists in Monterey County, the second of the critically endangered indigenous species to be found in March with wounds from lead ammunition and suffering compromised digestive systems from lead poisoning.

Biologists with the Ventana Wildlife Society reported that a rare California condor, a juvenile female, was trapped March 26 and transported for medical treatment to the Los Angeles Zoo. It was determined to have three lead pellets lodged in its body, two in a wing and one in a thigh.

An adult male had been captured for care about three weeks earlier in the same wilderness area, the victim of 15 wounds from lead buckshot pellets, according to wildlife biologists.

Both individuals were also diagnosed with potentially irreversible damage to their digestive tracts due to lead poisoning, most likely from ingesting carrion shot with led buckshot and left by hunters, in spite of a 2008 hunting regulation revision banning lead bullets in the condor's California range.

"Typically, hunters have a strong conservation ethic and do not randomly or intentionally harm protected species," said Eric Loft, California Department of Fish and Game Wildlife branch chief, in a prepared statement. "Any information about these shootings will help us prosecute this egregious crime and will further protect this rare California species."

Both wounded condors were reported to be in stable condition, though it remains unclear whether they will recover enough to be able to be released into the wild.

Nearly extinct in 1982 when re-population programs began, there were no known condors were left in the wild and only 22 survived in captivity.

Through the efforts of land, wildlife and Native American culture conservationists, the wild population has grown to 320 throughout their native ranges in California, Arizona, Utah and Baja California.

In addition to strictly imposed penalties by state and federal agencies on violators of endangered species protections, conservationist group Defenders of Wildlife announced a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for shooting the condors found in Monterey County backcountry.

Information regarding these or other California condor shootings can be shared with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sacramento Office of Law Enforcement at (916) 414-6660. Anonymous tips can be given at Fish and Game's hot line at (888) 334-2258.

Copyright © 2008 by Bay City News, Inc.
Photo © Paul S. Hamilton