Free Bullets in Condor Country
March 26, 2012
Some wildlife conservation groups give away plush toys, or canvas tote bags, or calendars.
Ventana Wildlife Society is giving away free bullets to hunters and ranchers in Monterey and San Benito counties, home of 62 wild California condors.
VWS Executive Director Kelly Sorenson says the number-one threat to condors is lead poisoning from spent lead ammunition. The endangered scavengers eat the carcasses of animals that were shot and left behind, or the gut piles from harvested animals, and fall fatally ill.
“We’ve spent 15 years trying to bring the California condor back from the brink of extinction," Sorenson says. "We are so convinced that lead from spent ammunition is the number-one problem, we wanted to address it head-on in a more collaborative way.”
A 2008 state law requires people to use only non-lead ammo in condor range, but VWS biologists are still finding dangerous levels of lead in samples of the birds' blood. Because the law is hard to enforce, Sorenson says, VWS is hoping to get more buy-in from the hunting and ranching communities.
“Some people are unwilling to switch because they’re mad, or they heard some erroneous information," he says. “We just want non-lead ammunition to be used. It’s nothing against hunting or ranching, none of that. We just want condors to survive.”
The privately-funded bullet initiative will deliver two boxes of non-lead ammo to the doorsteps of the first 450 adults to apply. Sorenson says a survey of VWS members showed strong support: 95 percent of 129 respondents were in favor of the initiative.
VWS will distribute flyers about the free bullets at hunting clubs and Fish and Game Commission meetings. The slogan: "Thanks for giving non-lead a shot!"