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Schwarzenegger to Condors: Hasta la vista, baby

October 5, 2007

The California legislature recently passed a bill banning the use of lead shot in hunting. The bill sits on Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk, awaiting passage into law where it will go a long way towards protecting birds from accidentally ingesting the lead fragments when they scavenge the remains left behind by hunter’s kills. Eagles, hawks, ravens, and crows all will be affected positively by this new bill, but the biggest benefactor will be that symbol of extinction defiance, the California Condor.

Most of us know the story of the California Condor. Down to 22 individuals largely due to the combined factors of habitat loss and lead poisoning, the bird was in real trouble. The drastic step was taken in 1987 to capture all the remaining wild condors and attempt a captive breeding program. 273 birds later, the bird is not yet out of the woods, but the program has been a success and several birds have been re-released into sites in California and Arizona so that it’s now possible to see free-flying Condors in the United States again. But lead-poisoning is still a very real problem as long as hunters still use lead shot. Banning lead and encouraging the use of steel or copper shot, which has been successful in other states, would go a long way towards preventing these unnecessary deaths.

But the NRA and some far-right state senators are arguing that such regulation is simply the first step towards instituting a ban on hunting all together, a patently ridiculous argument. Especially as the NRA is not a hunting-advocacy organization, but a gun-advocacy organization. I am vehemently anti-NRA but I hope not to come off anti-hunting, as I’m not in any way. Hunting is a useful, and in many areas important, way of regulating populations of animals in the absence of top predators. As a birder, I find myself in the same boat as most hunters; simply wanting to have preserved open spaces to enjoy. And I would imagine that most hunters would voluntarily switch to other forms of shot (which work equally well, by the way) if they knew the negative impact lead had on the environment. To that end, perhaps a public service campaign to increase awareness would be as useful as an outright ban, but banning lead shot does in fact deal with the problem in perpetuity. With the bill stating that in front of him Schwarzenegger should take the opportunity to sign it. Indications are, however, that he will not as he has already fired California Fish and Wildlife Department Commissioner Judd Hanna, a Republican and hunter, for coming out in favor of the ban.

Shame on Schwarzenegger and the NRA for politicizing such a simple decision that would help California Condors and other birds and not effect the abilities of hunters to own and use firearms or hunt at all. If I have any California readers, I urge them to contact their governor and encourage him to come around on this.

Oh, and after you’ve gone and contacted Governor Schwarzenegger (like I know you all will right?) go check out the latest I and the Bird at the Naturalist Notebook.

  1. Veery permalink
    October 5, 2007 5:09 pm

    A lot of states have restrictions on lead shot beyond federal regulations and there is no talk of banning hunting.

    Many hunters are also conservationists and much habitat is restored because of them.

    I hope the Governor signs that bill, I will be one out-of-state voice pleading he does.

  2. October 5, 2007 5:58 pm

    I agree with your sentiment 100%, Veery. Nontoxic shot tends to run a few cents more per box than lead shot, but the benefits to wildlife make it well worth it.

  3. foovay permalink
    October 6, 2007 6:33 pm

    Shame on Arnie. There is no need nor any drive to ban hunting associated with this issue.

    Tell Arnie to look next door, in Arizona – where non-lead bullets are being GIVEN to hunters FREE to help save the condors: and the hunters like it!

  4. Sky Girl permalink
    October 6, 2007 10:14 pm

    This is why I get so fed up with the NRA. what a ridiculous argument.

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