Friday, June 27, 2008

New law bans lead bullets in condor territory


Beginning July 1, lead ammunition will be banned throughout a wide swath of California to further protect the endangered California condor. While some hunters may not be pleased, few people are happier than Assemblyman Pedro Nava, who first introduced the ban, known as the Ridley-Tree Condor Preservation Act, in 2005.
“This was my baby,” Nava said of the ban yesterday while celebrating with California Department of Fish and Game officials during a news conference at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. “It was one I just wasn’t going to let go of.”

The ban failed twice before it was passed last October. Nava said the ban could have gone into effect at the beginning of January, but implementation was delayed seven months in order to give Fish and Game officials time to educate the public.
The lead ammunition ban stretches from Los Angeles, north to Alameda County, and from the coast, east to the outer edges of Tulare County.
Fish and Game Capt. Angel Raton said the ban is expected to impact tens-of-thousands of deer hunters this fall. He said 90,000 deer tags are available in the ban area, also known as condor the condor range, but anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 are issued on average.
The ban isn’t limited to deer hunters. He said it will impact anyone hunting game large and small in the area.
According to Nava, the need for the ban is based on a classic case of human interference with the natural food chain.
The Condor, of which a mere 332 exist, is a scavenger that often feeds on the entrails of other animals. When a deer, for example, is shot with a lead bullet, Nava said the hunter will often remove the animal’s intestines and other organs before packing the animal away. Sometimes these entrails get buried, sometimes they don’t.
When a Condor feeds on the lead-tainted remains, the birds often end up with a severe case of lead poisoning. Nava said the poisoning paralyzes the bird’s digestive system, essentially killing the condor through starvation.
Because lead ammunition explodes into tiny fragments once entering an animal, Nava said the condors go out of their way to eat the lead bits because they look similar to bone, which they ingest for calcium.
Nava said the initial unpopularity of the lead ban was due in part to strong criticism from the National Rifle Association, which continues to oppose the bill.
On its Web site, the NRA says the ban cannot be supported by scientific fact, and called it, an “Anti-hunting group’s efforts to ban lead ammunition throughout the state.”
Nava admitted that copper ammunition, the most widely available alternative to lead, hasn’t always been weighted as efficiently as lead. But he said copper is now comparable.
Copper, however, isn’t comparable in price. Fish and Game Lt. Chris Long said copper ammunition costs three-times more than lead bullets.
If saving the condor isn’t enough motivation for hunters to spend a little more, authorities hope the threat of a heavy fine or possible jail time will be.
Capt. Raton said violating the ban is punishable by an infraction or a misdemeanor. In either case, fines can range from $500 to $5,000, he said.
Raton said the goal at first will not be to punish hunters, but to educate. Once hunters know the reasons behind the ban, he believes they’ll comply.
“Hunters are conservation minded people and they understand that,” he said.
Nava commended the Sierra Club and Audubon Society for their support, and said he is most gratified by the Fish and Game wardens, who have thanked him for helping deliver the necessary laws to protect the condor.
“These wardens are dedicated to protection and preservation,” he said. “They’re not saying, ‘why do we have to do this,’ they’re saying thank you for the tools that we need.”
More information about the ban is available at


Dan said...

I, for one, would be greatly suprised if this lead ban would have any impact at all, on the condors. Tejon ranch banned lead on 1 Jan (they check bullets) and condors there are still coming up with lead poisoning. I read the studies and there never was a direct correlation between hunter bullets and the cause of lead poisoning.

The fact of the matter is, that we, people are encroaching on the condors habit by simply being here. Folks that are trying to save the condor have to reteach them how to survive. There are feeding stations set up, they have to be taught how not to fly into power lines, not to drink antifreeze. The condors time has come, and gone. This lead ban is a waste of taxpayer money, both state and federal. Wanna help, give your property back to nature.

Anonymous said...

Nava is in the pocket of radical animal rights groups who want to completely ban hunting -- driving up the price is only their latest ploy. Another symptom of his allegiance is his repeated attempts to push mandatory spaying and neutering on all pet owners.