Another victory for condors

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Yesterday, NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity and our partners settled our lawsuit against the California Fish and Game Commission and the California Department of Fish and Game over the use of lead ammunition by hunters in California condor habitat.

NRDC has long been fighting to get lead out of ammunition.  By in large, hunters don’t need lead ammunition (good alternatives exist) and the lead fragments that often persist in meat is pure poison to animals unlucky enough to feed on the remains of lead-shot game.  Condors are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning and numerous birds had been sickened and killed by the metal.  NRDC filed a petition before the Commission to ban lead ammunition in condor habitat and we worked hard to secure legislation, which passed last year, that banned the use of lead ammunition for hunting bigger animals such as deer, feral pigs, and coyotes.

But loopholes remained.  In particular, there is evidence from condor nests and observations of condor feeding behavior that, in addition to bigger game, the birds will also feed on the remains of smaller animals like hares and tree squirrels.  Today’s settlement helps us close those loopholes by immediately extending the ban on lead ammunition to all categories of “depredation” hunting (hunting licenses by the Department of Fish and Game for animals causing property damage) and by committing the Commission to consider a similar ban for the regular hunting of small animals in the fall.

In the meantime, it’s worth noting that the problems of lead ammunition persist in much of the rest of the country.  Just last month studies revealed elevated blood-lead levels in Yellowstone grizzly bears during hunting season. 

We’ve come a long way towards getting the lead out of condor habitat.  Now let’s think about the rest of the country.