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Will the Lead Ammo Ban Help Condors or Just Kill Hunting?
It seems that once again we are plagued with bad science and the ban on lead ammunition may not help condors and will most certainly impact hunting negatively.
First I call the readers attention to a paper written by Sanford Wilbur who worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service for many years doing condor research. You can read it at http://www.condortales.com/Resources/condorlead 1.html. If there is anyone who knows condors it's Mr. Wilbur.
He wrote the following:
1. "The information linking lead poisoning and condors has been confusingly, unscientifically, and even amateurishly presented, leading to all kinds of questions about the validity of the findings and the motives behind some of the actions proposed.
2. I think the conclusions reached may well be wrong, which means the actions proposed won't solve the problem.
3. There don't seem to be any actions being taken to get better information or confirm current hypotheses."
Mr. Wilburs statement constitutes a serious indictment of the "science" leading up to the lead ammo ban.
For example has any field investigator even seen a condor feeding on a gut pile from a hunter shot deer. It appears that over the years only one or two such records may even exist.
How much lead does a condor have to ingest to develop terminal poisoning. In experiments conducted in past years, Andean condors had to ingest lead pellets every day for 40 days. Turkey vulchures ( a relative of condors) required 140 day exposure to reach lethal lead concentrations. Is it even reasonable to assume that California condors consume lead particles in every meal for 40 days? And why do condors in the southern Baja population also have high levels of lead? Not from from eating deer gut piles, that's for sure.
Sources of lead are not confined to bullets. There are old dump sites, seeps of contaminated water caused by old oil and gas activity and even cattle carcasses found on the range had higher than normal lead content plus all that lead deposited near freeways by autos using leaded fuel.
Most of the animal rights group rhetoric states that lead alternative ammunition is comparable in cost to lead ammo but they never give us any figures. Let's look at shotshell ammo. A high quality ammunition such as Fiochi nickel plated lead shot filled shotshells cost about 64 cents per round. Non-toxic shells like HEVI Shot cost around $3.90 per round and Kent Tunsten-Matrix shells cost from $3.20 to $5.30 per round. It is easy to see that the lead ammo ban proponents are blowing smoke. Do you really think that bird hunters will fork over from $80 to $132 just for 25 shots?
When the lead shot ban for waterfowl hunting happened in 1991 many hunters simply dropped out of the sport. Many hunters knew that steel shot was ballistically inferior to lead and many hunters also had older model classic shotguns that would not handle steel shot without being damaged. What followed was a decrease in the sale of hunting weapons followed in turn by an increase in the manufacture, advertisement and sale of anti-personnel weapons. Hunting is becoming a thing of the past and the ban on all lead ammunition will only hasten it's extinction while the numbers of hand guns and assault rifles will increase. Is that what you want for America?
So as Mr. Wilbur predicted several years ago the ban on lead rifle bullets in 2008 has not helped to get the lead out of the condor populations and knee jerk decisions have been made based on the poorest of scientific methods. And to top it off when the federal government catches up with itself, copper bullets may well be banned under US code 18 paragraph 921 leaving hunters with no options but to throw rocks.