Peregrine Fund Study Shows Hunter Outreach Effort in Utah Will Aid Conservation of California Condors
15 January 2009Arizona's program to reduce the exposure of endangered California Condors to lead from spent ammunition is so successful that a similar education and outreach effort now underway in Utah will greatly enhance the survival of the species in this region, says The Peregrine Fund, an Idaho-based conservation group for birds of prey.
The growing condor population spends part of the year searching for food in southern Utah as well as northern Arizona. A peer-reviewed study published in the December issue of the international science journal, PLoS ONE, shows that a self-sustaining condor flock that can survive free of constant human intervention will require a substantially reduced exposure to lead-based ammunition during the hunting season near Cedar City, Utah.
Authors of the study are Rhys E. Green of the University of Cambridge, Chris Parish and W. Grainger Hunt of The Peregrine Fund, and Ian Newton of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and former chairman of The Peregrine Fund's board of directors.
"Thankfully, there are excellent alternatives to lead ammunition, such as copper bullets, and several major manufacturers are now producing premium non-lead rifle ammunition," said Parish, condor release biologist for The Peregrine Fund and an avid hunter. "We are grateful to all the hunters in Arizona who have voluntarily joined us in this unprecedented effort to conserve the California Condor and we are confident that Utah hunters will do the same."
The newly published study shows that carcasses and gut piles of game animals killed with lead ammunition in the Kaibab Plateau of Arizona and the Zion region of southern Utah are the largest sources of lead for condors in the Grand Canyon population. Those zones are attractive to condors during the hunting season because of the large quantity of remains of hunted deer and elk available as food there.
Researchers used data collected over three years, including satellite tracking of condors to determine where they forage and blood lead levels of condors captured and tested several times each year. The complex analysis showed:
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