The Latest: California is first state to ban lead ammunition to protect condors

  • A captive California condor.

    Flickr user Joe Lewis (CC)

California condors were nearly extinct by the 1980s. Thanks to habitat loss, wanton shooting, egg collecting, and the scavenger's propensity for eating animal carcasses tainted by lead bullet fragments, fewer than 30 remained. After decades of captive breeding, about 200 condors now fly free in central California, Utah, Arizona and Mexico. But death by lead poisoning remains a significant threat, preventing condor populations from flourishing without human intervention ("Getting the lead out," HCN, 5/5/07).

On Oct. 11, California became the first state to ban lead ammunition for hunting, expanding a partial lead-ammo restriction in the bird's range. But the controversial rules won't fully go into effect until July 2019. The ban comes as the Los Angeles Zoo treated 21 condors for lead poisoning in October, a record high. Meanwhile, Utah and Arizona are trying to get the lead out with voluntary incentive programs for hunters.

Eric Mills
Eric Mills
Nov 11, 2013 09:23 PM
Kudos to the State Legislature for doing the obvious. Here's hoping other states will soon follow suit, NRA paranoia notwithstanding. It's worth noting that only ONE Republican legislator voted for the bill (AB 711) on either the Senate or Assembly floor. Shouldn't environmental protection be a bipartisan issue?

Nor is it only the condors which are impacted. Secondary poisoning of scavengers is problematic for animals such as vultures, eagles, ravens, magpies, badgers, coyotes, foxes and others.

There should be a nationwide ban on lead for ALL hunting. And fishing tackle, too. Thousands of waterfowl annually sicken and die after ingesting lost lead fishing weights ("sinkers"), birds such as swans, loons, cormorants, diving ducks, et al.

For an informative website, see

Eric Mills, coordinator
David Newell
David Newell
Nov 13, 2013 06:40 PM
Eric, I agree with you. Everything we do has consequences: even putting out rat poison in our barns and outbuildings, resulting in increased mortality of a host of other animals. .http://www.huffingtonpost.c[…]ts-children_n_1747367.html.

I gave up lead shot in upland bird and duck hunting: the consumption by birds, in selecting "grinding grit" in their craws was obvious to envisage. I recently became informed about the broader problem, and will abide by the presented rality long before the 2019 "action date."

As for fishing, in my opinion there should be a world-wide ban on anything other than one line per fisher.