Next Condor-country Ban: Bolts and Rags?

All you southern California do-it-yourselfers prepare to rid your shops of bolts, nuts and grease rags. And that pop-bottle top that blew out of your trash just might choke the last remaining California condor.

The recovery of the endangered condor soared into the absurd this week with a report from the American Ornithologist's Union that once again says hunters¹ lead ammunition is poisoning the graceful scavengers.

The report provides new glimpses of the towering futility of the recovery effort. According to the Los Angeles Times condors can be considered "little more than outdoor zoo populations" thanks to the intensity of human intervention. They are being sustained artificially by government "feeding stations" that feature lead-free carcasses, by surgical removal of bolts, nuts, rags and other debris the majestic birds pick up in their long flights over southern California and the American Southwest. Chicks are vaccinated against West Nile disease.

Yet the report once again fingers hunters as a culprit in the recovery bottleneck, citing the ingestion of lead from big-game carcasses as a principle cause of mortality.

This even though the report goes on to mention that reintroduced condors are busy raiding trash dumps and being electrocuted by power poles. I'll await the recommendation that will bury all powerlines in California and criminalize trash generation.

The ornithologists recommend that California's ban on lead hunting bullets be adopted by neighboring states. And in order to boost compliance the group urges manufacturers and retailers to increase the availability of non-lead ammunition in the region. The reason? Because poachers kill large numbers of big-game animals and are "unlikely to comply" with lead-free rules "as long as lead bullets are easily purchased."

Great idea. Poachers are as likely to buy copper bullets as Southern Californians are to stop producing trash.

- Andrew McKean