The California Condor, Now Just Starting to Recover, Faces Threat of Lead Poisoning

California CondorWikipedia/Public Domain

Good News Followed by Bad

It wasn't too long ago that I wrote about the ongoing success story of the California Condor. After almost going extinct, its population has rebounded to over 400 individuals, making it more viable for the long-term. But that recovery is under threat from lead poisoning; indeed, condors scavenge and often end up eating carcasses that have been shot with lead pellets.

Lead poisoning remains a critical danger, and efforts to limit the use of lead bullets by hunters in California in the past few years have not cut down on the number of chronic poisoning cases, said researchers.

"We will never have a self-sustaining wild condor population if we don't solve this problem," said first author Myra Finkelstein, a research toxicologist at the University of California Santa Cruz.

"Currently, California condors are tagged and monitored, trapped twice a year for blood tests, and when necessary treated for lead poisoning in veterinary hospitals, and they still die from lead poisoning on a regular basis."

About one out of three condor blood test shows signs of serious lead poisoning. This is serious, and "without chelation therapy to remove lead from the blood, birds can suffer paralysis, stiff joints and lose their ability to fly. At high levels, lead poisoning can kill."

If only the state enforced better its partial ban on the use of lead ammunition in condor habitat, a law that passed in 2008, things might get better. But as it is, the iconic California Condor is fighting a tough battle for its very survival.


See also: California Condor Population Rebounds to 405 After Near Extinction

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