Protect Endangered Condors from Lead Poisoning

The California condor is one of the world's most endangered species, with just over 125 condors currently in the wild. Lead poisoning from ingesting lead ammunition in carcasses is a severe threat to California condors and also kills bald and golden eagles. Lead poisoning has caused nine confirmed condor deaths since 1997 and is implicated in the death or disappearance of at least 15 other condors in southern California alone. Scores more condors have required life-saving emergency blood treatment involving intrusive chemical therapy after ingesting lead.

Lead bullets are prevalent throughout condor territory, and there is overwhelming evidence that lead exposure comes from ammunition fragments in carcasses the condors feed upon. Condors and other scavenging birds such as eagles are extremely vulnerable to lead and will continue to die of lead poisoning until and unless state and federal agencies take action. Condor experts, toxicologists, and fish and game managers agree that without controlling the presence of lead bullets in condor habitat, the condor faces an extremely difficult road to recovery.

In December 2004, a coalition of conservation groups, Native Americans and hunters petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to change hunting regulations to protect condors from lead poisoning, but the Commission refused to act. Non-toxic lead-free bullets are already available that perform as well as or better than lead bullets for hunting big game. At least a dozen non-lead shot types are approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service for waterfowl hunting and could be used for hunting upland birds and other game.

Please send a letter to California and federal regulators, urging them to immediately end the use of lead ammunition in condor habitat in California and to phase out toxic lead ammunition statewide, which will protect bald and golden eagles as well. Use the sample text below or write your own letter.

Send a letter to the following decision maker(s): Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Director Dale Hall, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Ryan Broddrick, CA Dept. of Fish and Game Exec. Director John Carlson, Jr., CA Fish and Game Comm. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Regional Administrator Wayne Nastri, USEPA Region 9 Rick Farris, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Below is the sample letter:

Subject: Stop Exposing Endangered Condors to Toxic Lead

Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],

I urge you to take immediate action to protect California condors and eagles from lead poisoning by mandating the use of non-lead ammunition in condor habitat and eventually phasing out all use of toxic lead ammunition throughout California. At least nine condors have died in California and Arizona from lead poisoning since 1997, and scores of other condors have required intrusive chemical treatment for severe lead poisoning. There is compelling evidence that the primary lead exposure for condors and eagles is from ingesting lead bullet or shot fragments in hunter-shot carcasses. The California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service California Condor Recovery Team concluded that lead poisoning is a severe threat that remains an obstacle to the recovery of the California condor.

California recently put the condor on the state quarter as a symbol of its natural heritage, yet continues to allow hunters to use lead ammunition and leave lead-tainted carcasses in the condor's range. It is unacceptable to continue to expose our most imperiled wildlife to toxic lead. Alternatives to lead ammunition, which perform as well as or better than lead bullets for hunting activities, are already widely available. More than three-quarters of California hunters who responded to a recent Fish and Wildlife Service survey stated their willingness to use lead-free ammunition.

Please act now to protect the California condor by immediately ending the use of lead bullets for hunting in condor habitat in California and eventually phasing out lead ammunition statewide.


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