Maybe Condors Can Survive Afterall

As many recall there was a vigorous discussion here last week about the possibility of reestablishing California Condors to the Columbia Basin and Hells Canyon based on historical accounts and recent biological evidence.

One of the issues brought up in the discussion was the lead bullet issue. When game is shot using lead bullets the bullets disintegrate and leave small fragments that are consumed by humans leading to health problems. This is also the case with condors which scavenge gut piles left by hunters or carcasses of animals that died from their wounds and weren’t retrieved by the hunters.

It appears that hunters are using lead to a lesser degree in condor country. Is that a possibility in more reactionary parts of the country like Idaho?

Hunters are abiding by lead bullet bans in condor country
Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman.

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About The Author

Ken Cole

Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

5 Responses to Hunters are abiding by lead bullet bans in condor country

  1. kt says:

    It boggles my mind that hunters – and gun and ammo makers – would oppose something that actually protects THEIR health, too.

    “Similar lead fears caused North Dakota health officials to pull hunter-donated venison from food banks. The bans on lead bullets have angered hunters and brought protests from gun and ammunition manufacturers”.

    Does anyone know what the status of various Idaho Power or other re-licensing is? Funding a condor reintroduction program to the Interior Columbia Basin would be positive in many ways – including even having human health benefits.

  2. chris c. says:

    The Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Peregrine Fund have done an excellent job educating hunters on the dangers of lead bullets and the effectiveness of safer alternatives. Showing the dangers to humans and providing coupons or exchanges for copper bullets (so hunters can try them out first before buying) seem to be the keys to getting cooperation.

    Check out the first video “Why Use Non-lead Ammunition?” (fast forward to about 7:20 to get to the condor/lead issue):

  3. Anthony Scherr says:

    I don’t know why hunters don’t use more copper bullets. Barnes makes a copper bullet the tipped TSX which I think is far superior to lead bullets. These are the only bullets I use for hunting.

  4. Mike Post says:

    In the one published study that I have read, there was a definate increase in lead levels for game eating rifle hunters versus bow hunters for the same geographic area. That supports part of the lead ban justification. The interesting thing however, is that the lead levels recorded in both the rifle hunters and bow hunters were LOWER than the lead levels of persons in the nearest urban area.

    Bottom line: eating lead shot game meat in God’s country is a lot safer than eating store bought food and living in town, at least in this one area. Nothing is as simple as we would like it to be…

  5. chris c. says:

    The lead exposure in urban areas is due to contact with deteriorating lead paint from areas painted before the 1978 ban and from lead residue in soil leftover from when lead was used in all kinds of things. It’s the poorest communities facing the most risk and cities have been slow in rectifying the problem. Changing over to non-lead ammo won’t eliminate all sources of lead but it would clearly help hunters and wildlife.


February 2009


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey