Research studies conducted at UC-Davis have found scavenger birds such as eagles, condors and vultures are being poisoned when they eat carrion containing lead bullets or shot. This trend is not new, but the UC-Davis research provides confirmation of it in California. Animal remains left in the wild when a game animal is shot and cleaned sometimes contain the bullets or shot.
Also when hunters only wound a wild animal such as a deer or pig, and can’t track them, they die alone carrying the lead ammunition. In 2008 California banned lead ammo for hunters in condor habitat due to the rapid decline in the wild population. Lead poisoning contributed to their human-induced slide towards extinction, and is a threat to their recovery. In 1991 a ban on lead ammunition for waterfowl hunters went nationwide. Lead poisoning was also killing wild ducks, and golden eagles. Six years after it went into effect, it was estimated the ban saved 1.4 million wild ducks.
Bald eagles were also impacted as they had been consuming waterfowl contaminated with lead. Golden eagles also live in California Condor habitat and are at risk from consuming lead ammunition in carrion. “It just makes good sense to use non-toxic ammunition, wherever it is available, to protect wildlife as well as eliminate any potential risk to hunters and their families, said Christine Johnson, associate professor of veterinary medicine at University of California, Davis. Two of the UC-Davis researchers soon will begin to study the relationship between lead exposure and the health of endangered California condors.
Image Credit: Terra Kelly