SLUG REPORT > Lead poisoning in California condors still to be resolved
In the March 2011 Good Times article “Will Hunters Have to Bite the Bullet?” we reported that nearly all of the free-flying condors in California have had lead poisoning at least once, and that researchers have confirmed that lead ammunition from hunting is the most plausible source of exposure to the birds. Now, more than a year later, UC Santa Cruz researchers have concluded that lead from this type of ammunition is indeed the culprit.
The scientists reported their findings in a paper that will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this week. The major issue is that, regardless of the source of lead poisoning, we have yet to find a true solution to the man-powered, intensive, expensive rehabilitation currently necessary to nurse the affected condors back to health.
Currently, efforts in California to work toward a ban on lead-based ammunition in condor habitats are underway. However, because the birds feed on hunted carcasses, “even if only a few people are still using lead ammunition, there will be enough contaminated carcasses to cause lead poisoning in a significant number of condors,” Myra Finkelstein, one of the co-authors of the PNAS report and a research toxicologist at UCSC, said in a press release. “[Just] one exposure event could kill a condor.”
At this rate, experts predict that California will never again reach a level of sustainability for the population of these birds.
The argument to ban lead-based ammunition remains a primary factor at this point in time. Those fighting for the condors will continue to battle hunting organizations and gun-rights groups that are advocates for the use of these bullets until a solution can be found that satisfies both parties.