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Effectiveness of Action to Reduce Exposure of Free-Ranging California Condors in Arizona and Utah to Lead from Spent Ammunition

Green, Rhys E.; Hunt, W. Grainger; Parish, Christopher N.; Newton, Ian. 2008 Effectiveness of Action to Reduce Exposure of Free-Ranging California Condors in Arizona and Utah to Lead from Spent Ammunition. PLoS ONE, 3 (12), e4022. 10.1371/journal.pone.0004022

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Abstract/Summary

California condors (Gymnogyps californianus) released into the wild in Arizona ranged widely in Arizona and Utah. Previous studies have shown that the blood lead concentrations of many of the birds rise because of ingestion of spent lead ammunition. Condors were routinely recaptured and treated to reduce their lead levels as necessary but, even so, several died from lead poisoning. We used tracking data from VHF and satellite tags, together with the results of routine testing of blood lead concentrations, to estimate daily changes in blood lead level in relation to the location of each bird. The mean daily increment in blood lead concentration depended upon both the location of the bird and the time of year. Birds that spent time during the deer hunting season in two areas in which deer were shot with lead ammunition (Kaibab Plateau (Arizona) and Zion (Utah)) were especially likely to have high blood lead levels. The influence upon blood lead level of presence in a particular area declined with time elapsed since the bird was last there. We estimated the daily blood lead level for each bird and its influence upon daily mortality rate from lead poisoning. Condors with high blood lead over a protracted period were much more likely to die than birds with low blood lead or short-term elevation. We simulated the effect of ending the existing lead exposure reduction measures at Kaibab Plateau, which encourage the voluntary use of non-lead ammunition and removal of gut piles of deer and elk killed using lead ammunition. The estimated mortality rate due to lead in the absence of this program was sufficiently high that the condor population would be expected to decline rapidly. The extension of the existing lead reduction program to cover Zion (Utah), as well as the Kaibab plateau, would be expected to reduce mortality caused by lead substantially and allow the condor population to increase.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1371/journal.pone.0004022
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biodiversity > BD01 Conservation and Restoration of Biodiversity > BD01.4 Management of species and ecosystems
CEH Sections: Pywell
ISSN: 1932-6203
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: PLoS ONE is an open access journal. Follow OFFICIAL URL link to access the full text
Date made live: 25 Oct 2010 10:17
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/8320

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