Tuesday, September 21, 2010

California Condors Get Help from Hunters

Photo by Lynn Chamberlain, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Utah offers rebates to those using non-lead ammunition
The amount of lead California condors are exposed to in southern Utah should be going down soon.

In August, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources launched a program to encourage hunters to use non-lead ammunition while hunting on the Zion unit near the Utah/Arizona border.

The agency mailed rebate coupons to more than 2,000 deer, elk and bighorn sheep hunters. Each hunter who received a coupon indicated he or she planned to hunt on the Zion unit this fall.

Those who receive a coupon can mail it back to the UDWR along with proof that they bought a box of non-lead ammunition. In return, the UDWR will mail a check for $25 to the hunter.

The $25 check will cover most of what they spent to buy a box of non-lead bullets.

To qualify for the rebate, hunters need to buy bullets that are truly non-lead bullets. Bonded or jacketed lead bullets will not qualify for the rebate.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Utah’s Endangered Species Mitigation Fund provided the money for the rebate.

Lead poisoning
California condors are scavengers. Among the animals they eat are those that die after being wounded. They also eat gut piles that are left after hunters clean the animals the hunters have harvested.

Keith Day, a regional sensitive species biologist for the UDWR, says the animal carcasses and gut piles often contain fragments from lead bullets. After ingesting the fragments, the condors can contract lead poisoning.

Day says 15 condors have died from lead poisoning since condors were reintroduced to northern Arizona and southern Utah in 1996. He says lead poisoning is the greatest threat to the recovery of condors in the two states.

“More than 60 percent of the condors show signs of exposure to lead each year,” Day says. “That’s dangerously high for a population that numbers about 75 birds.”

Day says he’s hopeful the non-lead program will turn that figure around.

“Hunters top the list of people who care about wildlife and want to see it flourish,” Day says. “If you’re among those who received a coupon, we hope you’ll buy a box of non-lead bullets and use them while hunting on the Zion unit this fall.

”We think it’s possible to have both a quality hunt and a healthy California condor population in Utah.”

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