Pinnacles National Monument has worked for years to bring back the condor to healthy population levels. Since 2003, they've released 23 into the wild, but their progress is often slowed by lead, which can poison wildlife.Many hunters are getting the message. Most, reportedly, have switched to steel and copper shot, but some farmers and ranchers who are worried about wild pigs and vermin messing with their livelihood still use lead bullets when policing their grounds. The lead ends up digested by some condors, leading to poisoning and eventual death.
Here's some historical context, from the AP:
Nearly a year after the California Legislature banned lead bullets in the 15 counties covering condor country, lead poisoning remains the No. 1 condor killer. But biologists and game wardens say there are some encouraging signs of progress despite lack of compliance with the July 1 ban by some defiant hunters.
Federal information the California Fish and Game Commission will consider next month shows that 59 percent of condors and two of five nestlings sampled in California tested high for lead from January to June 2008, compared with 45 percent from July to December.
In March, the National Park Service prohibited lead in bullets and fishing tackle, and the Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to force a lead ban on land it manages near the Grand Canyon.
A recent condor death from lead poisoning marked the 14th since 1992.