By Anthony Canales
San Diego, CA –-(Ammoland.com)- Now that AB 711, the statewide ban on the use of lead ammunition for hunting and depredation uses, has passed the California Legislature, Governor Jerry Brown has a decision to make.
Does he listen to the environmental activist community, or does he listen to hunting and shooting stakeholders?
From a hunting and shooting stakeholder perspective, the reasons to veto AB 711 are based upon documentary evidence obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and Public Record Acts from a number of states.
That is because much of the case against lead ammunition is built upon research papers and arguments that only show the part of the data helpful to the lead ban argument. Condor Recovery Program participants have even gone to the extremes of concealing data, redacting necropsies, and even failing to carry out mandated data collection so as to provide the US Fish & Wildlife Service all the data needed to properly run programs in California and Arizona.
Of critical import is how mortalities of condors, the “prime victim” of lead ammunition use, are claimed to be related to lead exposure from ammunition, no other lead source, and no other cause.
A shining example of this problem is the case of Condor # 318.
Condor # 318, a male, has largely been a member of the captive-bred condors in the Central California flock. That is, when he is not being held by the Program in captivity for treatment.
In fact, Condor # 318 has shown an amazing tendency to have elevated blood lead levels, both before and after the current lead ammunition ban went into effect. Annual captures, and in some cases semi-annual, are part of the almost hard-to-believe veterinary record of this hapless foster parent. If behavior were a reason to place the bird in permanent captivity, which it is, Condor # 318 should have been put into “protective custody” years ago.
And in two “timely” cases, one in 2007 and one in 2012, items recovered from this condor’s digestive tract are officially listed as lead ammunition. In the 2012 case, where Condor # 318 ultimately died in captivity, pictures of one of the items surgically recovered from the bird are noted above.
Shooting stakeholders have a number of reasons besides color to wonder whether the two pictures above are of the same object. Impact mushrooming appears in the item from the photo taken by Dr. Myra Finkelstein’s assistant, Ms. Kuspa, which looks largely like an intact full metal jacket projectile. It is one that also does not seem to have fragmented at all. Since full-metal jacket bullets are not permitted for hunting in California, one can wonder as to the claims of it being a “hunter’s bullet” being bandied about by pro-ban sources.
The recovered object in the LA Zoo picture, on the other hand, is not so apparently a bullet fragment, and shows no signs of copper covering at all.
Even when one goes to the necropsy of Condor # 318, RP 19398, one sees contradictory and previously unrevealed data that is not part of the Ventana Wildlife Society Article on Condor 318.
For example, the Ventana article omits that Condor # 318 had a 2 mm by 3mm hole in the heart. Yet RP 19398 clearly notes the puncture, along with aspirated material in the lungs and air sacs.
Given that veterinary records show a massive reduction in blood lead levels during treatment at the Los Angeles Zoo, from a high of 760 ug/dL blood lead concentration to levels heading below 110 ug/dL, one wonders whether what really killed this condor, that had survived lead treatment before, was actually more related to the heart puncture, or pneumonia, than lead poisoning.
Capture and handling related mortalities of condors are not unknown to the Program, even in the modern era. In one example, Condor # 555 was also killed by having a perforated heart from a vaccine injection gone wrong, as noted in RP16288
Omissions like these in the public record are but a small sample to what have caused shooting and hunting stakeholder doubts about the reliability of Condor Recovery Program claims against lead ammunition. If they withhold critical data from the public, how reliable is the Program’s position on lead and future Condor recovery?
Add to that the records presented to the California Fish & Game Commission Here, And Here, And Here Too…, And Even Here…, it is clear that no lead ammunition bans are going to lower blood lead levels in condors enough to allow for recovery. Condors just seem to love eating trash, including metal fragments, too much to guarantee a lack of heavy metal exposure.
Of additional concern is that the Condor Recovery Program is currently overlooking the toxicity of copper, as noted in the Necropsy for Condor # 271, RP 9548. The death of Condor # 271 is not the only one related to copper, allegedly from ammunition or possibly from such microtrash as pennies and wire connectors.
This is important because it is copper ammunition that is being presented by the Program as the “safe” substitute for lead ammunition.
Hunting and shooting stakeholders have taken note that the Condor Recovery Program knew at least in October of 2002 that copper is toxic to condors. Additional stakeholder data, including emails where Peregrine Fund employees were discussing copper varmint bullet toxicity with a well-known manufacturer, has already been presented in the public record.
But what is also in that record is that studies on copper bullet toxicity are waiting only on a mandatory lead ban to become the next agenda item. Otherwise, there might be nothing to defend the program with when future condors are found dead with elevated levels of copper in their systems. A total ammunition ban is thus waiting in the wings as the next phase of the debate.
Hunting and shooting stakeholders are well advised to contact Governor Brown to veto AB 711. In the battle of “credibility” in this debate, stakeholders such as HuntForTruth do have the evidentiary “goods” to make the case against a total ban in California. It is but for these stakeholders to take action so as to preserve their tradition.
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