The Peregrine Fund to Hold Conference on Lead Ammunition

29 November 2007
The Peregrine Fund will sponsor a conference to explore the effects on wildlife and humans of lead poisoning from lead ammunition 12-15 May 2008, in Boise, Idaho. The goal of the conference, "Ingestion of Spent Lead Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans," is to promote a better understanding among biologists, scientists, health professionals, hunter groups, and sporting industries of lead bullets as a source of contamination.

Recent attention has been sharply focused on endangered California Condors, scavengers that become ill or die of lead poisoning after feeding on carcasses and gut piles of deer killed by hunters. Research shows the birds ingest lead from bullets that fragment and leave hundreds of tiny pieces of lead several inches from the entry point in animal tissue.

Is the condor an indicator of danger to humans as well as wildlife? The possibility that humans also ingest these lead fragments is currently being investigated and the results will be discussed at the conference. No amount of lead is considered safe, especially in fetuses, babies, and children, whose intellectual and behavioral development may be impaired.

The Peregrine Fund expects to release the results of its continuing studies on lead in hunter-killed animals at the conference in May.

For more information about the conference, see our website at: http://www.peregrinefund.org/Lead_conference/default.htm

Background

The Peregrine Fund is establishing a population of California Condors in northern Arizona. Birds are bred at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise and transported to Arizona for release to the wild. Chicks are scheduled to arrive in Arizona on 5 December 2007, and several young birds will be released to the wild in March 2008.

Peregrine Fund biologists tested all 57 free-ranging condors in the Arizona population for lead poisoning one or more times in 2006. Lead exposure prior to the fall deer-hunting season was unremarkable. After hunting began in late October, 95 percent of the birds showed evidence of exposure, 70 percent required treatment and four died of lead poisoning.

Working with hunters

Three years ago, The Peregrine Fund and Arizona Game and Fish Department began working cooperatively to encourage hunters in condor territory to voluntarily switch to copper bullets, which are less likely to fragment. So far this year, 80 percent of hunters have taken part in the non-lead ammo program, up from 60 percent in 2006.

Arizona hunters' acceptance of non-lead ammunition has been encouraging. Generally they are enthusiastic about condor restoration. A questionnaire sent by the Arizona Game and Fish Department revealed that 90 percent who used non-lead bullets regarded them as good as or superior to lead ammunition. More information about the Arizona Game and Fish Department's lead reduction program is available here: http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/california_condor_lead.shtml
In California, where a second, geographically separate population of condors is being established, a ban on lead bullets in condor territory was approved by the California Legislature and signed by the governor in October 2007.

For more information, contact:

Erin Katzner

Director of Global Engagement
Main Phone: 208-362-3716
Direct Phone: 208-362-8277
The Peregrine Fund