In Brief

Lead Ammo Poisons Condors in Grand Canyon

A close up of a California condor.
There are fewer than 300 California condors living in the wild. The species is listed as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act. (Image credit: Photo courtesy of Daniel George)

Critically endangered condors that live near the Grand Canyon are being poisoned by lead used in ammunition, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. So far this year, seven out of the 80 California condors that live in the area have died, and three of these deaths have been "definitively linked to lead poisoning from ingesting spent lead ammunition fragments in carrion, and lead poisoning is suspected in the other four deaths," according to the group. 

These raptors, the largest birds in North America, are especially vulnerable to poisoning from ammunition because they feed on dead animals, which have often been shot by hunters using lead bullets and shotgun pellets, studies on the birds have shown. The lead can then concentrate in their bodies, to devastating effect.

"Lead is dangerous to people and wildlife, even at very low levels, which is why it is critical that we take mandatory actions to remove it from ammunition and require less toxic alternatives," said Sandy Bahr, with the Sierra Club, in the statement.

Douglas Main
Douglas Main loves the weird and wonderful world of science, digging into amazing Planet Earth discoveries and wacky animal findings (from marsupials mating themselves to death to zombie worms to tear-drinking butterflies) for Live Science. Follow Doug on Google+.