Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Missouri
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Schulz, J.H., A.C. Totoni, S.A. Wilhelm Stanis, C.J. Li, M. Morgan, D.M. Hall and E.B. Webb. In review. Policy comparison of lead hunting ammunition bans and voluntary nonlead programs for California condors. Wildlife Society Bulletin


California condors (Gymnogyps californianus) are critically endangered and negatively affected by lead poisoning from spent lead-based hunting ammunition. This issue is surrounded by complex policy discussions, multiple mitigation options, and differing stakeholders’ values. Because lead poisoning is the primary factor affecting condor population growth, California Fish and Game Commission banned lead hunting ammunition during 2008 in southern California. Another regulation for a statewide lead hunting ammunition ban was adopted in 2013 and fully implemented 2019. Alternatively, Arizona Game and Fish Department instituted an outreach and awareness program encouraging voluntary use of nonlead hunting ammunition in the northern portion of the state during 2005; a similar program was initiated in Utah during 2009 and accelerated in 2012. Given the data linking condor mortality to lead bullet fragments, environmental groups petitioned several federal agencies during 2010–2016 to ban lead hunting ammunition on public lands. Federal agencies declined to regulate lead ammunition and federal courts ruled against petitioner’s requests, but advocacy from environmental groups has persisted. Currently, fragmented outreach and awareness programs encouraging voluntary use of nonlead exist around the country with little or no strategic planning. Human health is also an environmental justice issue through ingestion of lead bullet fragments in ground venison from hunter donations of game meat. Evaluating policy effectiveness in the three-state region includes monitoring condor blood lead levels, population status, and hunter awareness of the issue and use of nonlead hunting ammunition.