Governor Schwarzenegger apparently changed his mind and signed a bill to protect California condors from lead poisoning.
Assembly Bill 821, the Ridley-Tree Condor Preservation Act, written by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, requires the use of nonlead centerfire rifle and pistol ammunition when shooting big game or coyotes within specific areas of the state identified as the condor's range.In the last few years, many condors have died or become sick due to lead poisoning from ingesting spent ammunition left in big game carcasses. Seven of the fourteen birds released last year as part of the captive breeding program succumbed. Deaths from lead poisoning have hampered attempts to restore a self-sustaining condor population in the wild.
Those involved in restoring wild condors to California hailed the bill as a necessary step to ensure the success of the giant scavenger's reintroduction.
"This is a great day for the California condor and the state of California," said Glenn Olson, executive director of Audubon California. "I would like to commend Governor Schwarzenegger for signing the Ridley-Tree Condor Conservation Act and again putting our state at the forefront on wildlife protection."
"The Condor Preservation Act will significantly reduce lead poisoning of condors in California and is an important first step in getting lead out of the food chain," said Adam Keats of the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco.
The center, Keats said, hopes to see the Legislature or the Fish and Game Commission extend the ban on lead to include pistol and .22 caliber rimfire cartridges, and shotgun pellets or slugs used for big game, as suitable alternative ammunition of those types of weapons becomes available.