Welcoming Back the Condor

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The Ventana Wildlife Society is the only organization that releases condors back into the wild in the Big Sur area of California. With a record of releasing 50 birds since 1997, this group and others like it are slowly reintroducing this magnificent bird to its natural habitat.

The catch is that condors don’t hunt their own prey. Instead, they scavenge. Frequently they get their meal from marine mammals which have ended up on the shores. Other times they scavenge carcasses that have been left by predators or the leavings of human hunters – and human hunters use lead bullets.

Get the Lead Out

The problem with lead bullets is significant. Lead bullets shatter and scatter apart as they pass through the animal. Frequently, they end up disbursed through the organs, and the gut piles left behind by hunter are full of lead. All of the birds which have been released in the Big Sur area have had to be treated for lead poisoning at least once thus far.

Even with a law passed in 2007 that prohibits the use of lead based ammunition within condor territory, compliance is iffy. The challenge is convincing hunters who have always used lead ammunition that something like copper or alloy will do the same job just as well, without endangering the birds quite so much.

Finding a Solution Everyone Can Live With

Even though the condor release program has been reasonably successful, lead isn’t the only challenge. Hunters continue to poach the birds, just as they did before they were placed upon the endangered animal lists. With fines over $20,000, 5 years of probation and 200 hours of community service required with a violation, those caught find themselves in a lot more trouble than they imagined.

Since the condors being released on the North Coast can’t travel far, there being no reliable or safe flight path elsewhere, their habitat is limited. Accommodations will need to be made so that those condors which are back in the wild can survive.

It is worth noting that in Arizona and Utah other reintroduction programs are thriving; but those birds are not dependent upon sea mammals for their meals. Instead they have access to expansive ranges and plenty of carrion.

Michael Rupkalvis works with the LedBulbsandLights website. The site features a variety of different types of environmentally-friendly LED products, including LED spotlights and other LED light products.

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