Condors and Other Wildlife
Scientific studies have reached a consensus: lead poisoning is the biggest threat facing the successful recovery of the California condor.
Scientific studies have documented that the primary source of lead is from spent ammunition that remains in carcasses after they are shot. When a lead rifle bullet traveling at almost 3 times the speed of sound strikes animal tissue, it quickly begins to expand and loses hundreds of tiny pieces as it continues its journey. The entrails and areas that are trimmed away and left behind are often contaminated with these lead fragments. Because condors feed on carrion, are group feeders, and even small amounts of lead can sicken or kill a condor, condors are more frequently exposed to lead bullet hazards than most wildlife. Lead poisoning through ingestion of spent lead bullet and shell shot is also a serious factor for many other wildlife species including golden eagles, bald eagles, and turkey vultures.
Scientific studies pertaining to lead topics are available on Pinnacle's National Monument's website.
Wildlife, Lead Free
Lead poisioning is not just a condor issue. Over 100 species of wildlife have been documented to be adversely affected by lead including turkey vultures, raptors (including golden eages and bald eagles), waterfowl, doves, and even bears. Common lead poisioning symptoms in birds include: anemia, weight loss, drooping wings, weakness, inability to fly, diarrhea, and death
Human Health Concerns
Studies are increasingly showing that lead fragments can also be found in wild game meat processed for human consumption, even though best attempts are made in the field to remove sections that are within the bullet wound channel.
A recent study that was conducted and will soon be published, examined the prevalence of lead bullet fragments in packaged venison. Thirty different white-tailed deer were harvested using lead rifle bullets and then given to 30 different game meat processors, with the instructions of processing the animals using customary practices and providing the researchers packages containing steaks and ground meat. These packages were then randomly selected and x-rayed to see how many contained lead bullet fragments. Of the 324 randomly selected packages of ground venison, 34% contained metal fragments; some packages contained as many a 168 separate pieces. Further analysis positively identified the metal as 93% lead and 7 % copper. This demonstrates that while the results are preliminary and much further study needs to be done to better assess risks to humans, it appears that the if lead bullets are used, odds are high that you will ingest lead particles in ground meat.
How YOU can help
You can help the California condors as well as many other widlife species by engaging in the lead reduction effort. If you hunt, hunt with ammunition that is non-lead. Whether you are in condor country or thousands of miles away, using non-lead ammunition will help prevent many different species of wildlife from dying of lead poisoning. If you do not hunt, but know people who hunt, educate them about the negative effects of lead ammunition. Educate others by using the information and links on this website including the scientific studies, the list of non-lead ammunition brands, or by simply informing them that it is healthier for them and their family to use non-lead ammunition. Even if you do not use non-lead ammunition or shoose to use lead ammunition, there are still ways you can help condors and other wildlife when hunting by removing ALL shot animals (coyotes, small and big game) and gut piles from the field.
Last updated: September 9, 2021