Close Encounters of the Condor Kind

The author of this article sent me this:

I have recently published an article “Close Encounters of the Condor Kind,” written with the help of the Ventana Wildlife Society, about searching for condors in Big Sur and Pinnacles that may be of interest to your readers. 

Here are the first few paragraphs, with a link to the rest of the article.

“The dusty pick-up truck pulls up at a ranch gate in rural south Monterey County, California. Against a backdrop of dry, rolling, oak-savanna foothills, three generations of hunters and their dogs wait for the driver to join them. Soaring on the first thermal uplifts of the morning, shadowy silhouettes of turkey vultures circle silently overhead. Their wavering flight pattern signals a quest for food as their extraordinary sense of smell seeks carrion for the first meal of the day.

Mike Stake, senior wildlife biologist with the Ventana Wildlife Society(VWS), reaches into the back of his truck to retrieve packages that he hopes will ensure a welcome greeting. Mike strides towards the group: his mission — to deliver free, non-lead ammunition.

Although lead has been outlawed for hunting in much of California for more than a decade, condors and other large raptors, such as the circling turkey vultures, are still dying from lead poisoning. Most hunters follow the mandate to use non-lead ammunition but some ranchers clearing ground squirrels from their land continue to use lead because the alternative is more expensive and difficult to find. Recognizing a problem with the cost and lack of general availability of copper ammo,for the popular .22-gauge long rifle, VWS distributes free copper rounds within the condor breeding range. According to executive director Kelly Sorenson, the organization has distributed over 10,000 free boxes of ammunition since beginning the program in 2012.

The hunters crowd around Mike. One has heard that copper doesn’t perform as well as lead. Others are concerned about availability. VWS representatives meet annually with hundreds of hunters and ranchers throughout Monterey and San Benito Counties to address these issues. He assures the group that 90 percent of hunters are happy with the quality of non-lead alternatives but urges them to check it out for themselves. He explains that while deaths have decreased since the program began, lead is still in use and is so poisonous that when ingested even small fragments can be enough to weaken or kill a condor.”

For the rest of the article, see: