Condors and lead in Arizona and Utah

The California Condor recovery effort in Utah and Arizona has been a cooperative venture among federal, state, and private partners. The partners include The Peregrine Fund, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Recently, these partners have touted some good news. Apparently, the number of California Condors treated for lead exposure from lead-bullet ingestion in Utah and Arizona recently dropped to its lowest level since 2005. Between September of last year, and the start of September of this year, a total of 13 condors were treated for lead poisoning. During the same period the previous year, there were 28 birds treated. The average over five years had been 26 condors per year.

The problem, of course, is that condors can be at risk of death if they ingest carrion that contains lead fragments.

To help the California Condor, the state wildlife agencies in both states have asked hunters in southern Utah and northern Arizona to use non-lead ammunition. In an effort to offset the cost and encourage hunter participation, both agencies have run voluntary programs to provide hunters with a free box of non-lead bullets. The voluntary response from hunters has been significant.

Lynda Lambert, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said that she’s cautiously optimistic. She added, “We have between 80 and 90 percent of hunters participating in any given year.”