Get the Lead Out

Yesterday, the California Fish and Game Commission held another hearing to discuss the threat that the use of lead ammunition poses to California condors. The hearing takes place just over a week after the news that yet another California condor — Condor #245— died from the deadly effects of lead poisoning. Lead exposure is probably the single greatest threats to reestablishing healthy population of California condors, North America's largest terrestrial bird. And, despite what the wiz kids at the NRA would like you to believe, there's no real scientific dispute about the matter. In fact, scientists recently compared blood-lead isotopes, which act as chemical signatures for different sources of lead, in exposed condors to the lead isotopes in commercially available ammunition. Their conclusion? Lead ammunition is "the principle source" of lead exposure to California condors. In response to a petition filed by NRDC and other groups with the California Fish and Game Commission, California is now considering a ban of the use of lead ammunition for hunting deer and other game in condor habitat. NRDC also filed a lawsuit against members the Commission under the U.S. Endangered Species Act to ensure that they do the right thing. The good news is that alternative ammunition, made from copper and other materials, is readily available and performs every bit as well as traditional lead ammunition. But the Commission — which as been considering the problem for far too long — continues to drag their feet. I guess we will see ‘em in court.

California condor

About the Authors

Andrew Wetzler

Interim Chief Program Officer and Managing Director, Nature Program

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