Save Condors By Restricting Lead Ammunition


The Arizona Game and Fish Department sent out a bizarre press release attacking conservation groups while trying to defend the agency’s abysmal record in protecting the Grand Canyon’s endangered condors from lead poisoning. Game and Fish also tried out some scare tactics, claiming that protecting condors from lead poisoning would derail the condor reintroduction.

 The occasion was Arizona’s effort to intervene in a lawsuit filed by conservation groups against the U.S. Forest Service for failing to control toxic lead ammunition left behind by hunters in Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest. That lead ammunition is often consumed by wildlife, including condors, eagles and other raptors, and also jeopardizes human health.

While Game and Fish trumpets the “success” of voluntary measures to reduce lead in the wild, the metric that matters is whether condors are actually protected from needless lead poisoning. Here are the sad facts:

-- More than 30 condors have died of lead poisoning in Arizona since 1996.

-- More than two-thirds of the Grand Canyon condor flock has to be captured and given emergency blood treatment to save their lives from lead poisoning each year, causing all kinds of behavioral problems.

Condor biologists and the federal condor recovery program have repeatedly warned that condors will not recover unless the lead is removed.

 And yet, Game and Fish makes the ridiculous claim that groups advocating to end use of toxic lead ammunition do not participate in condor conservation efforts. These are the very groups working hard to protect condors in Arizona, Utah and California from lead poisoning, urban development, oil and gas drilling, inappropriate wind-turbine placement and poaching.

 Game and Fish fashions itself a leader in condor conservation efforts, yet has consistently opposed effective protections against lead poisoning and authorized hunting that has caused collateral deaths of more than two dozen condors. This is the agency that in 2008 killed the only known jaguar in the U.S. at the time and opposed habitat protections needed for jaguar recovery; opposed reintroduction of endangered Mexican gray wolves and advocated for trapping and shooting as many wolves as possible; and opposed protections for Arizona’s endangered desert nesting bald eagles.

 California switched in 2008 to mandatory nonlead ammunition for hunting in that state’s condor range and hunters there have easily transitioned to hunting with nonlead bullets. There has been no decrease in game tags or hunting activity. There have only been three lead-poisoning deaths of condors since the regulations went into effect — and incidentally, eight condors in Arizona have died from lead poisoning during that same period.

Sportsmen have been required to use nonlead ammunition for hunting waterfowl for the past two decades, saving millions of birds from lead poisoning. It’s time for our forests and wildlife to get the same kind of benefits, because ultimately no animal in Arizona should die from preventable lead poisoning.


ALLAN SIMS 4 years, 1 month ago

I’m curious how these people think a bird that weights over 25 lbs. can ingest enough lead to harm them, from the few carcasses they might eat that some hunter just decided he didn’t want to take home? Now, how often does that happen? Hunters go to the woods to bring home game, if they hunt at all. They don’t shoot them and leave them there, 99% of the time.

Perhaps a deer gets away from the hunter and dies later. OK. What percentage of animals killed result in that? And, of that minute amount, what percentage of them are eaten by condors, versus cougars, coyotes, wolves and sundry other predators? Or, maybe those bad ol’ hunters are slipping up to the edge of the grand canyon and pumping their nests full of lead from half a mile away? Or, what if the condors walk around on the ground (In the Kaibab woods) like turkeys and find the pellets that didn’t hit the animals at all, and ingest them that way?

Thank you Arizona Game and Fish for withstanding such a dumb demand to burden tens of thousands of citizens with stupid laws, predicated on this pie-in-the-sky idea. Even if their claims were founded on anything thinner than the air under a condor’s wings, why should tens of thousands of hunters and the industries that serve them, be dramatically imposed on, to satisfy misguided ideas on how to save less than 20 birds? And, thank the citizens of Arizona for not being as gullible as those in California.

And, when the smoke clears, the condor will still be there. Their existence, or the lack of it, will not be the result of man’s actions, one way or the other.

This is a result of people who can’t exist without trying to control the lives of others.


Pat Randall 4 years, 1 month ago

I cannot believe all the people who are so concerned about birds, wild animals, stray dogs and cats that no one wants. Who protected them thousands of years ago? No One. They weren't supposed to survive, they ate each other. There are many org. that collect millions of dollars for this insanity while thousands of children go without food or clothes here in Arizona and the rest of the US.
Why not use that money to help the kids who are hungry and cold. I keep reading about how many homeless kids there are in Payson. Help them. If these groups had been around a long time ago we would be running from dinosaurs.


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