A big thumbs down goes to the Arizona Department of Game and Fish, for its efforts to continue the poisoning of california condors, the largest bird in North America. California condors are an endangered species that very nearly went extinct a generation ago. People have struggled to reintroduce the california condor into the wild, and to establish viable populations of the bird.
The Arizona Department of Game and Fish doesn’t seem to care much about that, though. The Department is opposing efforts to end the use of lead ammunition within the borders of the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona, on the grounds that hunters in the National Forest should be left to voluntarily choose whether or not to use lead ammunition.
The california condor is a scavenger, and feeds upon the bodies of dead animals it finds. Large numbers of these dead bodies are animals that human hunters have killed, but failed to retrieve. Many of these corpses contain ammunition from the guns of the hunters who shot them. Much of that ammunition contains dangerous amounts of lead. When california condors feed on these animals, they often die.
In Arizona 15 of the endangered birds have died as a result of lead poisoning in the last five and a half years. During the same time, 11 of the condors have died in California, even though California has a larger population of condors.
Replacing lead ammunition used by human hunters with copper ammunition saves the lives of california condors, but the Arizona Department of Game and Fish wants to keep its current lax approach, despite the evidence of problems. National Forests are public land, and hunting on them is a privilege, not a right. When hunters go into National Forests to kill the animals they find there, the least we can do is to require them to use ammunition that doesn’t spread toxins into the ecosystem, killing wildlife that the hunters weren’t even aiming at.