Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Lead Out

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Lead Out

Article excerpt

For years, lead poisoning--caused by ingestion of spent lead ammunition--has been the stealth killer of California condors, responsible for over two-thirds of all deaths within the species' free flying population. But as of this summer things may be looking up for the endangered birds: On July 1, after a multiyear phase-in period, California became the first US state to enact a full ban on the use of lead ammunition in hunting. The state legislature initially passed the ban back in 2013.

What makes lead ammunition so dangerous to condors and other wildlife? Upon impact, it fragments into tiny pieces that lodge throughout a felled animal's body. So when condors and other scavenging animals feed on the carcasses of these animals, they ingest the poisonous metal. For the California condor, with a total living population of about 500, more than half of them in the wild, the impact of lead bullets has been especially dire--an estimated 76 condors have died of lead poisoning over the past quarter-century, even as California has implemented an ambitious condor recovery effort.

"When the condor is eating its meal, we think they accidentally then ingest a little bit of these lead fragments," environmental toxicologist Myra Finkelstein told KQED. "Even fragments as small as a couple of grains of sand have enough lead to potentially kill a condor. It doesn't take very much."

In 2012, Finkelstein was among several scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz who found that despite previous legislative attempts to limit exposure, wild Californian condors showed no reduction in lead levels in their blood, and that 20 percent of the population had lead levels necessitating clinical intervention. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.