State Senate Makes It Easier to Feed Carrion to Wild Condors
Non-profit groups helping feed California’s condors would no longer be prohibited from hauling dead animal carcasses to the giant carrion-eaters under legislation approved August 12 by the state Senate.
As lawmakers approach the final two weeks of the 2010 legislative session, both the Assembly and Senate are voting on dozens of bills daily, a number that will increase sharply as the August 31 deadline gets closer.
Republican senators voted against the condor-feeding bill, which was returned to the Assembly on a bare 21-vote majority.
Their stated reason centered on regulations by the Department of Fish and Game which took effect in July 2008 prohibiting the prohibit the use of lead bullets when hunting deer, bear, wild pig, elk and pronghorn antelope in areas inhabited by California condors.
The purpose of the regulations was to prevent condors that might eat the carcasses from being poisoned by the lead in the bullets.
Ten condor deaths have occurred from lead poisoning in Arizona and California. Lead is the leading killer of condors in the wild.
“This ban has received over a 95 (percent) or 99 percent compliance rate among hunter in condor areas and the lead levels in condors has not gone down,” said Senate GOP Leader Dennis Hollingsworth of Murrieta in opposition to the bill, AB 1956.
Hollingsworth said the Department of Fish and Game should test what is being fed the condors and increase regulation of what’s being fed to North America’s largest bird by non-profits, rather than make it easier for them to do so.
Although 87 condors ply the skies of California – up from 22 in 1982 – they need help finding food because young condors, particularly those raised in captivity, don’t know where to find food on their own, say supporters of the state’s condor recovery program say,
The measure, by Assemblyman Bill Monning, a Santa Cruz Democrat, is aimed at helping non-profit groups who aid in increasing the number of condors in the wild.
However, existing law prohibits transporting a dead animal from one person’s property to another. The only acceptable destinations for a carcass are a rendering plant, an animal disease laboratory, crematory or collection center.
Monning’s measure exempts non-profit condor feeding groups from that requirement, if they are given an annual permit by Fish and Game, which helps coordinate California’s condor recovery efforts.
Previously to avoid the stench and spectacle of rotting animal carcasses being torn to bits by monstrous birds, Monning’s bill specified that condor feeding areas be located on properties of 100 acres or more and set back at least one-half mile from the property line.
Those requirements have since been deleted from the measure.
In arguing against the bill, Fish and Game expressed worry that “transporting domestic carcasses that were killed on roads or die of natural causes could result in carcasses infested with disease being displaced to new areas.”
After California condors were reintroduced into the wild in 1992, five died after colliding with power lines.
In response, breeders of captive condors, which include the Los Angeles Zoo and the Zoological Society of San Diego, began a power pole aversion program.
A fake power pole was placed in the pen where young condors stay before being released. The pole gives the condors an electric shock when they try to land on it, causing the birds to seek a natural perch.
Condor power line deaths have fallen as a consequence, according to a 2000 article in the Endangered Species Bulletin.
Condors have inhabited North America for more than 50,000 years.
Once ranging over much of North America, condors began to dwindle because of lead poisoning, illegal shooting and loss of habitat.
The less than two-dozen surviving birds were captured and in 1987 and bred.
Since 1992, in California they have been re-introduced into the mountains north of Los Angeles, near Big Sur on the Central Coast and in Pinnacles National Monument.
Seventy-five condors have also been released in Arizona and another 19 in Baja. In all, there are 180 condors in the wild and another 171 in captivity.
Monning’s bill faces a final vote in the Assembly before going to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The GOP governor has taken no public position on the measure.
August 12 is the 43rd day of the new fiscal year for which no budget has been enacted. The Legislature is required by the constitution to send the governor a spending plan by June 15, two weeks before the start of the fiscal year.
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