Condors – a scavenger bird – are continuing to die not as a result of being shot, but due to ingesting lead ammunition fragments in carcasses.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, seven of the 80 wild condors left in Arizona and Utah have died since late last year, with three of those deaths from lead poisoning.
The Center believes lead ammunition should be treated the same as lead paint and leaded gasoline as voluntary efforts to convince hunters to switch to lead-free ammunition simply aren’t working.
By “hunters”, I use the term loosely as many serious hunters are great stewards of the environment. As I mentioned in my article from a few years back on green bullets and hunters; aside from any warm and fuzzy aspect it’s definitely in their interests to look after the environment that supports the animals they hunt.
The Center says the California condors are the most endangered bird species in North America and of the 166 reintroduced to the wild since 1996, half have disappeared. Among those where the cause of death was found; half were due to the ingestion of lead ammunition in carcasses or gut piles.
The ingestion of lead ammunition isn’t just a condor-specific problem – 130 species of birds and other animals are prone to it. The Center says over 14,000 tons of toxic lead shot continues to wind up in the environment annually in the USA through upland bird hunting alone.
Interestingly, a recent national poll found 57 percent of Americans support legislation to force the use of non-toxic bullets for hunting. Sure, it’s a majority, but not a huge one. I’d be curious to know what the fascination with lead is. Perhaps it’s in part due to the cost of alternatives; but more expensive bullets may translate to more carefully placed shots and less yee-haw type behavior.
I’m not about to start criticizing the hunting fraternity in its entirety, but it seems to me way too many folks have guns over there; some that probably shouldn’t. In Australia, a gun is not a right but a huge privilege and responsibility.
The lead issue certainly isn’t confined to the USA though. Last year I reported on a similar problem in the UK.
If you’re a hunter; “greener” ammo is perhaps something you may want to consider to protect the animals that aren’t your primary target – it’s collateral damage that can be avoided.