News coming from Pinnacles National Monument, east of Salinas Valley, was cause for celebration in April: "First Condor Chick Hatches at Pinnacles National Monument in Over 100 Years." A milestone in the recovery of the nearly extinct California condor, it seemed, had been crossed.
But last week, the news turned somber: "Wild Condor Chick Evacuated from Pinnacles National Monument due to Lead Exposure." Biologists found that the 2-month-old chick had extremely high levels of lead in its blood — as did the chick's father.
Lead poisoning has been a serious threat to wild condors. These birds are scavengers, and lead bullet fragments in animals shot and left in the field are believed to contribute to the problem.
Beginning July 1, 2008, California banned the use of lead ammunition in condor range for hunting deer, bear, wild pig, elk and pronghorn antelope — as well as coyotes, squirrels, and other non-game wildlife. The first California Fish and Game Commission report (June 2009) was hopeful.
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