Turbines and Toxic Ammo Endanger Condor Comeback

The California condor is one of the world’s rarest bird species. Poaching, lead poisoning (from eating animals containing lead shot), and habitat destruction combined to bring about their extinction from the wild by 1987. The species was reintroduced to California in 1991, with an estimated 226 total living in the wild today. However, lead poisoning and death from wind turbines serve as serious threats to the species.

Although California hunters are legally required to use nonlead bullets when hunting in the condor’s habitat, recent studies indicate that the population is still in danger from the toxic metal that hunters leave behind in animal carcasses consumed by the condors.

AWI advocated in support of A.B. 711—a bill to prohibit the use of lead ammunition throughout California—which passed the state Assembly and is pending in the Senate, where it has been approved by the Natural Resources and Water Committee and is now under consideration by the Appropriations Committee.

Unfortunately, the condors also face another threat: wind turbines. In May—despite federal law prohibiting the harassment or killing of endangered species—federal wildlife officials announced that they would not prosecute  the developer if an endangered California condor is struck and killed by turbine blades at a proposed wind farm owned by Alta Windpower Development in the Tehachapi Mountains, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles.