Following a lengthy battle between conservationists and pro-hunting groups, the California Senate voted this week on a historic bill that will ban lead ammunition in the state.
Assembly Bill 711 is intended to protect endangered condors and other wild animals from lead poisoning. When hunters leave carcasses or gut piles, they may contain lead shot pellets or bullet fragments. Scavengers who find and eat these leftovers can develop lead poisoning, which can cause sickness and death for a number of species.
As a result of the continued poisoning of endangered California condors who live predominantly in California, the state banned lead ammunition for hunting in 2008 in their historic range, which runs roughly from Los Angeles to San Jose, but the move didn’t do enough to protect these birds or other wild animals. Lead poisoning continues to be the number one cause of death for condors, who would not otherwise survive without human intervention and treatment.
The new bill will require the state Fish and Game Commission to issue regulations by July 1, 2015 that phase in use of non-lead ammunition for all types of hunting and will require the switch to be fully implemented throughout the state by July 1, 2019.
“California is on the verge of a historic step toward protecting people and wildlife from needless lead poisoning,” said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The governor needs to sign this critical legislation. There’s no reason to keep putting toxic lead into the food chain or risking human health when there are nontoxic bullets already on the market and in use by hunters.”
While some hunters have been supportive of the move and have voluntarily switched to alternatives on their own, others haven’t been quite so compassionate. The National Rifle Association launched a website campaigning against the move, while others are still balking about the potential effects of a ban.
Some still believe that AB 711 is an anti-hunting bill in disguise that will lead hunters to stop buying hunting licenses altogether, which will cut funds for conservation efforts. The same argument was used when lead ammunition was banned for hunting waterfowl in 1991, but the ban obviously didn’t lead to the end of hunting.
The Center for Biological Diversity also notes that there has been no decrease in game tags or hunting in central and Southern California in the years since the ban in the Condor’s range went into effect five years ago and points out that the continued hunting in those areas only proves that switching to non-lead alternatives, such as copper, is feasible.
The bill now goes to Governor Jerry Brown for a signature. If he signs it, California will be the first state to require non-toxic ammunition for all types of hunting.
Photo Credit: Abhijit Patil