Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Monday, September 24, 2007


(Read the story in Salon: Condors Vs. the N.R.A.)

I attended the American Ornithologists' Union meeting in Santa Barbara in 2005, when an all-day symposium about California Condors was held. Researchers presented their studies finding conclusively that the precise chemical forms of lead found in lead-poisoned condor blood samples were the forms in bullets. There were an enormous number of papers and studies establishing that lead is the number one cause of mortality for condors, and that the situation is a genuine crisis for the species. The research was compelling.

Hunters have a long and honorable track record as conservationists. But they also have a long track record as obstructionists when their personal sport might be modified slightly to protect species. Lead shot for waterfowl hunting was banned in the US only after a long and bitter battle, even though that shot was not just poisoning Bald Eagles and other scavengers feeding on crippled ducks--it was poisoning the waterfowl resource itself when spent shot rained down on wetlands for ducks, geese and swans to pick up as grit. Hunter paranoia was at the forefront then (they kept claiming that banning lead shot for waterfowl hunting was the first step to banning hunting altogether), and it's at the forefront now.

I hope Arnold Schwartzenegger lives up to the reputation he's earned as a conservationist. I also wish more hunters would rise to the challenge of living up to their own reputation as conservationists. As the number of hunters steadily decreases, based on declining numbers of Duck Stamps sold each year, sportsmen will become an increasingly beleaguered minority. It will be increasingly difficult for them to defend their sport if they squander so much of their resources and reputation on fighting this kind of battle, in which ALL the scientific evidence is against them.