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Fewer California Condors Treated For Lead Poisoning in Arizona This Year

A young California condor in the canyon
(photo courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service)
A young California condor in the canyon

Fewer endangered California Condors required lead poisoning treatment in Arizona last year. Some scientists believe the decrease could be attributed to stronger anti lead ammunition programs in Utah.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the number of condors in need of treatment dropped by almost 15 percent in 2014.

John McCamman, a wildlife manager with the agency, said those numbers are encouraging given the recent ramp up of a lead-ammunition reduction effort in Utah.

"While it is not a trend, we haven't seen multiple years of this, we have a single year in which both the participation of Utah hunters increased in non-lead programs and the exposure of condors to lead decreased in the same year. Those are both good signs," McCamman said.

Arizona Game and Fish officials estimate that about 90 percent of hunters participate in the state’s voluntary program and the rate is growing in Utah. However, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Jeff Miller said measuring success from hunter participation is misleading, adding that an outright ban like the one in California is the only way to make a difference.

"Arizona and Utah don’t have an excuse, especially given the epidemic of lead poisonings of endangered condors in those states recently," Miller said. "It only takes one feeding incident to poison a whole flock."

Lead poisoning is the leading cause of death among California condors. They’re most often exposed to the toxin after ingesting lead bullet fragments found in the meat leftover from big game hunts.

Carrie Jung Senior Field Correspondent, Education Desk Carrie Jung began her public radio career in Albuquerque, N.M., where she fell in love with the diverse cultural scene and unique political environment of the Southwest. Jung has been heard on KJZZ since 2013 when she served as a regular contributor to the Fronteras Desk from KUNM Albuquerque. She covered several major stories there including New Mexico's Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and Albuquerque's failed voter initiative to ban late-term abortions. Jung has also contributed stories about environmental and Native American issues to NPR's Morning Edition, PRI's The World, Al Jazeera America, WNYC's The Takeaway, and National Native News. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in marketing, both from Clemson University. When Jung isn't producing content for KJZZ she can usually be found buried beneath mounds of fabric and quilting supplies. She recently co-authored a book, "Sweet And Simple Sewing," with her mother and sister, who are fabric designers.