California Condor
© Douglas Croft

California Condor

Defenders in Action: Lead Poisoning

Defenders is proud to be one of the many groups that helped bring the condor back from extinction, but challenges remain. The threat of lead poisoning from hunter ammunition has been addressed in California, but it is still a problem in neighboring states.

The Problem

In 2007, California required the use of non-lead ammunition for hunting in condor territory in an attempt to reduce the chronic lead poisonings of this critically endangered, iconic species. While the ban has been successful in decreasing overall blood lead levels and cases of lead poisoning in wildlife, it isn’t enough. Just last year, a study published by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that unless lead ammunition is removed from the environment entirely, the California condor won’t survive on its own. It only takes a tiny amount of lead to poison animals, causing immense suffering before killing them.

How We're Helping

Defenders and our partners worked in the California State Legislature to pass a bill that would require non-lead ammunition for all hunting statewide. This legislation will phase in the non‐lead ammunition requirement over a three‐year period after allowing the Fish and Game Commission eighteen months to develop a plan that mitigates the impact on ammunition manufacturers, retailers and hunters. A trusted coalition of veterinarians, children’s health advocates, scientists, hunters and animal and wildlife advocates formed in order to make phasing out lead ammunition in California a priority, and on October 11, 2013 Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law.

With this wonderful progress made, Defenders continues to advocate for an end to lead ammunition for hunting on all public lands, particularly on national wildlife refuges. Our legal case to ban the use of lead bullets on Forest Service land is still pending before the courts.