Support for Arizona’s voluntary non-lead ammunition program increases in 2008

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January 15th, 2009

PHOENIX —  Arizona’s sportsmen and women are stepping up to help the recovery of endangered California condors. For the fourth consecutive year, participation in the state’s voluntary non-lead ammunition program has grown.

Surveys shows that 90 percent of hunters took measures in 2008 to reduce the amount of available spent lead ammunition in the condor’s core range versus 80 percent the year prior.

“We are very encouraged by the high participation rate in 2008 and the year-over-year increases since the program began,” says Kathy Sullivan, the condor program biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “It clearly indicates that hunters are aware of the conservation challenges condors face, and they are willing to voluntarily take action to reduce the available lead.”

Lead poisoning has been identified as the leading cause of death in condors and the main obstacle to a self-sustaining population in Arizona. Studies show that lead shot and bullet fragments found in game carcasses and gut piles are the main source of lead in condors.

Of the 90 percent of successful big game hunters who took lead reduction efforts, 654 used non-lead ammunition during the fall hunts in the condor’s core range. Another 160 hunters removed gut piles from the field or took other action to reduce the condor’s access to lead.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department, and its partners the Arizona Deer Association, Arizona Elk Society, Arizona Antelope Foundation, Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, and the Arizona Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, have encouraged hunters to continue sportsmen’s proud tradition of wildlife conservation by using non-lead ammunition in condor range (Game Management Units 9, 10, 12A/B, and 13A/B).

The department started offering free non-lead ammunition in 2005 to hunters drawn for hunts in the condor’s core range, which includes Game Management Units 12 A/B and 13A. The free non-lead ammunition program is supported in part by the Heritage Fund, a voter-passed initiative started in 1990 to further conservation efforts in the state, including protecting endangered species, educating children about wildlife, helping urban residents to better coexist with wildlife, and creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation. Funding comes from Arizona Lottery ticket sales.

Participation in the non-lead effort has jumped more than 40 percent from its initial levels in 2005.

The condor is the largest flying land bird in North America. The birds can weigh up to 26 pounds and have a wingspan of up to 9 1/2 feet. Condors were first reintroduced in Arizona in 1996, and they now number 66 in the state. Visitors at the Grand Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs may be able to observe the birds, especially during the spring and summer.

For more information on condors and lead, visit

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