On March 7, 2009 four captive-bred California Condors took wing in the skies above the border between Arizona and Utah! Their release is a symbol of hope for this endangered species. In the wild, the birds will encounter many dangers including power lines. But the biggest threat to their existence may arise from something they will not see coming.
According to the Peregrine Fund, lead is the silent killer that sickens countless numbers of condors as well as Bald and Golden Eagles every year. During the season, hunters leave behind gut piles from their kills that contain bullet fragments. If a lead bullet is used for the kill, it leaves fragments along the wound channel as well as in the gut pile. Condors are poisoned when they scavenge the remains. Once inside the bird’s body, lead shuts down the bone marrow causing anemia. The severity will depend upon the amount of lead the bird ingested. Treatment involves removing the lead from the birds gastrointestinal system and chelating (binding) the lead that has already been absorbed.
If you or anyone you know enjoys hunting or fishing (think lead weights), please ask them to use lead-free ammunition or pack-out gut piles after they dress the prey. This one small step will protect the condors, the environment and all of us who enjoy it. Remember, the meat from animals killed with lead ammunition is harmful to humans as well. Thanks!