Death toll climbs as giant birds are felled by tiny lead fragments

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  • Byrd Cupertino, CA
    March 9, 2013 6:58 p.m.

    I agree that hunters are beneficial to the condors, just not hunters using lead bullets. Studies have been done that show the isotope composition of lead in the dead condors matches that of lead bullets. Lead bullets tend to fragment into tiny pieces as it travels through the animal, and even if it does exit, it still can leave hundreds of fragments behind. Lead the size of a fingernail is enough to kill a condor. There is a baseline comparison because all condors are trapped and tested for lead at least once a year, most twice a year. Several condors a year have to be treated for lead poisoning, some in the field, and some taken to veterinarians for more in-depth treatment over several days or weeks.

    Just banning lead doesn't always work. It's banned in condor territories in California, and we're still seeing problems from non-compliance, because it is so difficult to enforce and find the non-compliers. What's helping is spreading the word and teaching others about why lead is so bad. It's not that we're against hunters, we support hunters, just not lead bullets.

  • EDM Castle Valley, Utah
    March 8, 2013 9:13 a.m.

    Just ban lead in those areas. There are alternatives!

  • nrajr SANDY, UT
    March 7, 2013 2:22 p.m.

    Two undisputed facts are that more than 99% of all species that have lived on the earth are now extinct, and as organisms compete and evolve, the destination of every species on earth is extinction. Studies amongst biologists had established the number of organisms necessary for a species to remain extant as 500, more recent studies have put that number at 5000. Either way, the condors numbers are far below those requirements. If private individuals and organizations wish to spend their resources to extend the existence of the condor that is perhaps a fine and noble thing, but ultimately, it is almost certainly futile.

  • HS Fan Salt Lake City, UT
    March 7, 2013 1:33 p.m.

    God loves all creatures, none more than others. We should do everything in our power to insure this species survives.

  • raptor man boise, ID
    March 7, 2013 12:49 p.m.

    10% is a pretty sever loss. You must keep in mind that a condor does not reach breeding age until six or seven years old. Condors, under perfect conditions, will breed every other year and produce one chick. The cost of a released Condor is around $1,000,000 per bird successfully fledged. Without a constant supplement of released birds the population is not sustaining yet. Almost every Condor in the wild today has been captured and treated for lead poisoning at least once and some several times--all this at great cost. I have seen the results of a study where several deer were shot with a normal high power deer rifle. the Xrays of these deer really surprised everybody, lead was scattered all over the tissue, sometimes quite a ways from the wound channel.

  • Nebsy Ephraim, UT
    March 7, 2013 10:10 a.m.

    "The severe death toll in the last few months has taken out almost 10 percent of the Utah-Arizona condor population. The population dropped from 80 condors to 73."

    Is there a biologist out there that could comment on this? I do not accept the authors implication that 10% mortality is 'SEVERE'. I expect that the reproductive rate is much larger than 10% and would therefore indicate an (dare I say) rapidly expanding population?
    I encourage the author to provide readers with some more data: What is the rate of population growth? Percentage of juveniles that reach adulthood? Compared to similar species?

    I do not excuse the use of lead ammunition and praise the sportsmen/women who are actively helping the condor out. Let's try and put the issue in perspective.

  • Flashback Kearns, UT
    March 7, 2013 8:11 a.m.

    I think that they are eating fish sinkers from dead fish. I break line all the time and I know that there are fish that get hooked, the line breaks, fish die, birds eat dead fish.

    I have a better idea. Lets bring in Ducky Mallard from NCIS to run the guts for lead fragments after the animal has been cleaned out. That way we would know exactly what is happening and if bullets are indeed the culprit.

    Personally, I shoot them in the head or neck. I never try for a body shot.

  • Jefferson Kalispell, MT
    March 7, 2013 7:49 a.m.

    You will have to put me firmly in the skeptics camp on this one. First, most hunters don't gut shoot an animal, thereby leaving lots of lead fragments in the field. Second, even if an animal is gut shot, a high power rifle using any quality projectile offers little in the way of fragmentation with the bulk of the projectile passing straight through. Third, the fact that they find traces of lead in deceased animals offers no baseline comparison to the blood of a "healthy" animal since they only test the dead ones. Fourth, symptoms of lead poisoning, at least in humans, rarely include being dead. I am tempted to feed my chickens lead pellets daily and see how long it takes for them to drop dead. I've never seen a study like that, and it would be easy to do. This whole condor/lead "story" appears to lack qualitative and quantitative science and smells like a manufactured crisis - similar to SARS and Bird Flu.