(KCPW News) The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is following Arizona’s lead in launching a program that aims to reduce the number of California condors poisoned by lead from bullets. The division has offered $25 toward non-lead ammunition to hunters that commit to using it in areas of the state where the condors make their homes.
“They’re feeding on the gut piles, and in some cases carcasses, of animals that have lead fragments embedded in the tissues,” says Jim Parrish, Avian Program Coordinator for the DWR. “They ingest the lead fragments and then that results in them getting lead poisoning and some birds have died from that as a result of foraging on those carcasses.”
Parrish says 15 condors have died since the birds were reintroduced to northern Arizona and southern Utah in 1996. And according to division statistics, about 60% of the condors show signs of exposure to lead each year.
The majority of condors living in Utah are located in the Zion unit, and the division has identified about 2,000 hunters who plan to hunt there this fall. Parrish says the response from hunters toward the program has been positive.
“We’ve gone around to all of the sportsmen’s groups at the expos and talked one-on-one with everyone. We’ve gotten just across the board total support of what we’re doing,” says Parrish. “And so now with offering the rebate coupons we’re really excited and expecting that they’re going to step right up and work with us on this to help us get the lead out if you will and get the birds exposure reduced here in Utah.”
Parrish says California condors are listed as an endangered species, however the population in southern Utah and northern Arizona were reintroduced to the area as an experimental, non-essential population under the Endangered Species Act.