Lead poisoning threatens condors

Lead from ammunition poses serious threat to endangered California condors

The 150 California condors remaining in the wild face a serious threat of lead poisoning, particularly from lead bullets hunters leave behind in animal carcasses, a recent study indicates.

Researchers from the Ventana Wildlife Society collected blood samples of every wild condor twice a year from 1997 to 2010, and found one in three had some amount of lead poisoning, while one in five was poisoned to the point of needing intensive lead-removal treatments to survive, according to the Los Angeles Times. The study strengthens the case of conservationists pushing to remove lead from ammunition, an issue contested by the National Rifle Association, among other groups.

“The levels of lead are completely mind-boggling,” said Donald Smith, UC Santa Cruz environmental toxicologist and the study’s lead author. “Usually, in people, if we see an incidence of 1 percent, we call it an epidemic—and this is 20 percent.”