Condors and ingested lead


December 3, 2011, 07:52 PM
Ok. So, they have successfully brought the California Condor from the brink of extinction. Beautiful. Everyone is happy. Right?

But then they say that too many of the birds are getting lead poisoning and that the lead is coming from fragments of bullets left behind by hunters in game carcasses. So, in California, lead bullets are now banned. (I know, add it to the list.) Bummer for them, but the up-side is, Barnes Bullets, a local company is the biggest and (as far as I know) the best company making all-copper bullets.

Here's the problem. They have transplanted Condors to the Utah-Arizona border region, where they are having trouble breeding, due to (so they say) lead poisoning from bullets in carcasses. Now, I don't really mind using Barnes bullets at all. They are among the best bullets you can get. what I really resent, is that California has started EXPORTING their problems to other states.

Now I hear (I think it was) Tom Gresham say once that there was no indication that any bird had ever been poisoned this way, it was all speculation. Who has any data on this? Are Condors snarfing lead and going sterile or is it nonsense?

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December 3, 2011, 07:53 PM
Follow-up, has the incidence of lead poisoning in condors gone down in California since they banned lead?

December 3, 2011, 08:00 PM
survival of the fittest. if those birds are stupid enough to eat lead in a large enough number to be noticeable, and were almost extinct once, it's probably nature saying that it's their time to go.

Could California get any more queer?

December 3, 2011, 08:11 PM
What I really that that they are too big to survive anymore. Just like other species that once had much larger versions roaming the earth, they just can't be sustained anymore.

December 3, 2011, 08:19 PM
As a resident of **********, and in contact with some USFS managers at the time the ban was implemented, there were also a few instances of the giant birds drinking radiator coolant and becoming poisoned as a result. Most believe the lead bullet ban was pushed on F&G by a very vocal bunch of hyper-enviromentalists. Whether or not it is working is up to debate, but one thing is for sure: other states should get ready, bans like that likely are coming your way.

December 3, 2011, 08:34 PM
Unclear on this - Did they ban lead bullets ENTIRELY? Or just for hunting?

December 3, 2011, 08:37 PM
No disrespect to the OP but... does it matter? Since when have facts been part of the political process?

December 3, 2011, 08:40 PM

The Peregrine Fund is a good organization. Most of the people who work there and founded the organization were/are hunters.

Here is the link to the actual conference. There is plenty of data there to review:

December 3, 2011, 08:55 PM
None taken. I just kind of want to know if it's hokum or if there is something to it.

December 3, 2011, 09:02 PM
It's propaganda.

December 3, 2011, 09:09 PM
FWIW: Condors make their living flying around looking for carrion - roadkill, dead animals, or gut piles. It's what they do. Unlike predators that kill their prey and eat it fresh, they have to deal with carcasses that are... past their prime. To do that, they have extremely strong acids, to deal with all the funky stuff they eat w/o making them sick.

If you or I eat an occasional pellet, it goes through and comes out more or less intact on the other end. For condors, it doesn't - their extra strength stomach acids completely dissolve the pellet/fragment, and so they absorb rather than excrete the lead.

The ban is for hunting only, not target shooting. It's exactly the same issue as steel shot for waterfowl hunting; it's not a plot. I mean, I'm sure it doesn't have antigun folks shedding any tears, but the concern is real.

December 3, 2011, 09:16 PM
The concern is real, but is the problem?

December 3, 2011, 09:28 PM
How many dead animals are just lying around in california with a bullet stuck in them anyway?

December 3, 2011, 09:50 PM
How does lead affect the common buzzard. I live in Mississippi and buzzards and piles of deer guts are
Pretty common. To my untrained eye the buzzards seem to be doing fine

December 3, 2011, 10:02 PM
Seems I've read articles claiming the "California Condor" 's range once spanned most of North America. Certainly I've not read any accounts of sightings on the East Coast by early explorers. These early arrivals made careful observations of the animals, plants and minerals they encountered for one simple reason; they were seeking ways/means they could exploit for their profit.

Given the relatively small population and range of the condor, I suspect its a declining species. That, somewhere along the way it hit a genetic barrier or crossed a population threshhold that impacted the species ability to expand/exploit the resources available to it. The "lead bullet syndrome" is, I'm convinced, just a "stalking horse" created by anti-hunting, anti-gun activists to further their agendae. >MW

December 3, 2011, 10:14 PM
It was, and continues to be, a scam by the anti-gun/environmentalists who thought that by banning lead bullets, that they would essentially outlaw firearms hunting. I guess that they would rather have starved the animals from overpopulation and overgrazing.

American ingenuity proved up to the task with lead-free bullets.


December 3, 2011, 10:21 PM
This is as much BS as global warming. How much kickback is Al Gore getting off this one?

December 3, 2011, 11:49 PM
I believe it's hokum. Any articles or studies to back it up?

December 4, 2011, 12:20 AM
Many of the condors do have elevated lead levels, but whether the lead is coming from bullets doesn't appear to have been proven definitively. I guess it's possible that's where the lead is coming from; the attempt is, to at least some degree, legit. The comparison to the global warming debate is valid, we did recently go through a fairly dramatic warming trend, the question is was it caused by human activity. In both cases it's mostly inference as to the the case of the condors the proposed solution is really just an inconvenience, maybe it will work.

Rob G
December 4, 2011, 12:33 AM
I don't remember the exact expert in question but I do remember hearing a debate on the radio years ago about this just prior to the law being passed in Kali. The gist of it was simple: 1. No evidence of significant lead poisoning in Condors. 2. The copper bullets that were likely to take the place of lead apparently have a tendency to deform into little masses of rather hard jagged metal. The thought was that any Condor eating one of them was likely to end up with a severely lacerated GI track.

Point two was especially interesting to me and if in fact it's true, well then damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

December 4, 2011, 12:34 AM
mjdeckard, check the second link i posted. It's a scientific and conservation organization. I've done some volunteer work with them and they aren't ant-gun, anti-hunting or anything. Most of the guys up there are hunters. That second link was a scientific conference entirely about lead and wildlife. Really interesting stuff.

December 4, 2011, 12:46 AM
Rob G, don't speak too loudly.
Next they'll ban copper.

December 4, 2011, 01:51 AM
Personally, I think it's a smaller problem than politicians are making it out to be. But I do believe there is a small problem, in certain specific regions, to a small number of individual animals and people. But I have no evidence, so I can't demonstrate the actual perspective of the problem. I don't know.

The dilemma is that it can be proven easily that lead is left in game after it is shot, but we don't know how dangerous it is for humans, birds, coyotes, insects, and other animals. We don't know how dangerous it is to all animals, but certain animals (like scavenging birds) are more highly susceptible to small amounts of lead than us humans. Since it took 100 years for science to get to this point, if we wait another 100 years to get specific answers we may incur more damage than we think we're doing. So do we act now, not knowing if it's a problem or not, or do we do nothing? We don't know.

That's the dilemma. Do we move to alternate projectile (bullet) materials, or do we remove all guts from the field when we take our game, or do we do nothing and hope we don't cause further harm? Nobody knows. Despite those who declare that it's all a scam, and despite anti-hunters who declare that the world is ending, we really don't know.

So why don't we just keep using lead core bullets, and the condors be damned? In certain locatilities (like the Southern Mediterranean wetlands in Europe, and Arctic regions of Alaska and Canada) humans are showing higher levels of lead from eating the game they take (because they live daily on what they shoot). So it isn't just condors, it's everyone. But what's the perspective? Is it a big big deal, or a modest deal, or no deal? We don't know.

So the BIG problem is that we don't know the perspective. If it's a tiny problem, like most of us hunters want to believe, then blow it off. Or is it a bigger problem that would become devastating if we wait another 100 years for the scientific data to become compete?

We don't know.

Anyone who declares that he/she knows for sure is lying.

We really don't know.

So that's the answer to your astute question, ml deckard. We don't know.
Anyone who asserts otherwise is a liar.

Art Eatman
December 4, 2011, 11:41 AM
"We don't know" is as good a closing statement as one could hope for. :) This isn't the first time around on this subject, and the general commentary is the same style as before...

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