Tag: condors

At what point does a species go from endangered to extinct? Is it when the last individual dies? Or is it when the last individual of one gender dies leaving a lone survivor? This may not seem to be a gun related topic; but, here in California, it is. The State’s attempts to “save the condor” affect hunters in particular and gun owners in general. Laws on lead ammunition will ultimately determine the ammo choices, and costs, that even non-hunters will have when they seek ammunition for self-defense or other non-hunting applications.

The popular view of extinction is the latter of the two listed above. When the last male or the last female dies, breeding another generation becomes impossible. Or does it? Cloning might offer hope, some would argue. But recent studies suggest that it was all over for a particular species long before the last breeding pair was parted. This study of Woolly Mammoth populations shows how a species can pass the point of no return even while there may be hundreds of individuals still alive. (Here’s something of a Cliff Notes version from the NY Times.) The study documents the dramatic loss of genetic diversity in the last known mammoth population.

The last mammoths of Wrangel Island died out about 4000 years ago. The DNA of one individual that died about 300 years before that point was compared to the DNA of a mammoth from Siberia that lived 45,000 year ago. The genetic diversity was about 20% lower in the younger sample and showed signs of multiple, deleterious mutations that would have hindered the ability of the Wrangel Island population to survive changes to their environment. The estimate of the island’s mammoth population 4300 years ago is 300 breeding individuals. (There may have been more individuals present on the island, but only 300 or so were actively breeding.) This proved to be too small a population to sustain the species. Harmful mutations built up and natural selection couldn’t weed them out of so small a population.

In 1987, when the last wild California Condor was captured at the start of the State’s breeding program, there were 27 individuals left in the world. Out of that group, only 13 were breeding individuals. All California Condors alive today are descendants of those original 13. Making matters worse, there’s a very good possibility that all 13 were closely related. If that’s the case, then the entire population of California Condors in the world today is descended from less than 13 birds.

Current law regarding endangered species focuses on simplistic census numbers; how many animals exist. 300 large animals on a 2900 square mile island would seem, by this measure, to be a healthy population. It wasn’t. But laws such as the Endangered Species Act were written before science could accurately describe a species’ genome. It assumes that having more individuals in a population is automatically good. But, if all of these individuals are closely related, then even a large population isn’t healthy and isn’t sustainable. Merely counting heads won’t save a species from extinction.

The question to be asked about new or existing laws here in California isn’t “Will this save the condors?”, but rather “Is saving the condors even possible anymore?”. Arguably, the answer to that question is “no”. Gymnogyps californianus is already extinct when one considers their genome. But all of this goes further than condors. Recent studies have shown that some “endangered” wolf species aren’t wolves; they’re coyote hybrids. Under current law, this means that they’re not endangered at all.

It’s time for the law to catch up to science. More than nose counting must be done to determine which species need protection, which do not, and which are beyond hope; and thus, where we should spend our finite government resources. Attempting to save an already extinct species or a hybrid population isn’t a good way to spend the People’s money. Worse yet, we hurt species that can be preserved with these quixotic attempts to “save” extinct species and hybrid populations.

Condors Conservation Legal News

No, not those California turkeys; the ones that roam the halls of the State Capitol. I’m talking about Meleagris gallopavo.

Wild turkeys were introduced into the State starting about 100 years ago with mixed success. These were initially farm-raised birds that didn’t fare well in the wild. But starting in 1959, true, wild caught birds were introduced from Texas and these have established themselves here. Now environmentalists have begun some predictable handwringing. (Never mind that it’s far too late to actually do anything about the birds!)

Dawn Starin writes in Scientific American about California’s Wild Turkey Troubles

Before the arrival of European settlers with their hunting, forest clearing and timber extraction, flocks of hundreds of wild turkeys could be found throughout North America. By the start of the twentieth century, they were on the brink of extinction. Through conservation and reintroduction efforts, however, they recovered and today, although not quite as many as the ten million estimated during the 1600s, they number about six million and are resident in every state except Alaska. While this proliferation has been deemed a great conservation story by many—maybe even the greatest wildlife conservation success of the last century—there is considerable debate surrounding the introduction of wild turkeys into California and their place in its landscape.

M. gallopavo isn’t native to California. There was once a native species, M. californica, but it died out 10-12 thousand years ago; a time roughly corresponding to the Younger Dryas period. This same period saw an end to much of the megafauna in North America. This also marks the beginning of the end for the California Condor, a functionally extinct species that was designed to feed off of the carcasses of megafauna. It’s possible that a comet impact event triggered the sudden cooling in the Northern Hemisphere that marked the Younger Dryas. M. gallopavo now seems to be reestablishing the old ecological niche once occupied by M. californica, but possibly to the detriment of those species that began to adapt to the vacancy.

Of course, the greenies are doing what greenies do: They’re churning out studies. But to their dismay, not all of the studies support the something-must-be-done point of view. (A point of view that gives them a shot at employment after they’ve run out of post-graduate classes to take, by the way.) For example, one study suggests that turkeys and quail have no problem coexisting, even though they eat some of the same things. Another contradicts suggestions that the birds are spreading Sudden Oak Death. It also dismisses claims that they’re eating endangered species or causing habitat destruction. Still, the something-must-be-done camp tells us that something must be done. They don’t say what that something is in particular, but one of the somethings you don’t see them suggesting is hunting. (Shocked? Neither was I.)

So for those Californian’s interested in supporting biodiversity and a providing lovely dinner, the spring turkey season is just around the corner.

Conservation Hunting News Shooting sports


California: Get the Truth About the Proposed California Lead Ammunition Ban (AB 711) and the Misguided Campaign to Pass it

Posted on May 6, 2013
Assembly Bill 711 is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, May 8.  It is crucial that you call AND e-mail members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee and your Assemblyman respectfully urging them to OPPOSE this egregious anti-hunting bill.  Contact information for members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee can be found here.  Contact information for your Assemblyman can be found here.

To assist policymakers and to educate the public, hunters and recreational shooters, Hunt for Truth’s website has all of the facts and science on the lead ammunition debate available for your review. Policymakers and hunters are urged to visit the Hunt for Truth website and to subscribe to the Hunt for Truth e-mail list to receive e-bulletins with the latest breaking news and information on the proposed lead ammunition ban in California (AB 711), and all lead ammunition issues.

Self-proclaimed environmental organizations are trying to prohibit the use of traditional ammunition consisting of lead core components in hunting and recreational shooting.  They claim that some scavenging animals, like the California condor, ingest and are poisoned by small pieces of lead contained in the carcasses of game and gut piles left in the field by hunters.

But there is substantial evidence that the groups attacking the use of lead ammunition have employed faulty science, which uses questionable scientific methodologies and selectively cherry picked, and/or excluded data to support preconceived conclusions in their campaign to ban all traditional ammunition. In fact, some researchers from public institutions who have published studies funded with taxpayer dollars that support the lead ammunition bans are actually thwarting attempts by peers to independently review their work.  They refuse to provide the original data on which their studies were based available for scientific scrutiny.

The real truth is that lead ammunition is an unlikely cause of the alleged poisoning, because the metallic lead used in bullets and shot is relatively insoluble in the digestive tract of birds of prey and scavengers. Scientific studies have confirmed that it is very difficult to poison some birds with lead, even by repeatedly feeding them lead shot mixed with food over time.

On the other hand, lead compounds found in legacy paint, gasoline, insecticides and micro-trash are quite soluble in the digestive tract and are responsible for many of the highly publicized lead poisonings attributed to lead ammunition. These lead compounds are common in the environment, and should be investigated first in cases of lead poisoning of wildlife.  The anti-lead ammunition researchers, however, typically ignore “alternative sources” of lead in the environmental, because the existence of such sources undermines their “get the lead out” campaign and the anti-hunting agenda.

Lead ammunition ban proponents also routinely ignore the fact that metals proposed for use in alternative ammunition can cause serious environmental consequences.  Alternative ammunition containing bismuth, tungsten or copper coated steel all presents various environmental concerns. Bismuth leaches into the soil and groundwater and interferes with soil bacteria.  Tungsten, which is transformed to a soluble form by oxygen, accumulates in the spleen of wildlife and can cause immune system disorders.  Even copper is toxic under certain circumstances, and can do far more environmental damage than lead.  Steel shot does not perform as well as lead on game, leading to higher numbers of crippled game that escape and die in the field, and injuries to humans from ricochets.  Traditional ammunition containing lead is still the best, and safest, alternative.

Everyone needs to learn the real truth behind the all out assault on lead ammunition, not only in the battleground front of California, but everywhere in the United States.  Anti-lead ammunition groups will not rest until all lead ammunition, and perhaps hunting, is banned within the United States.  One of the sponsor’s of AB 711 was recently quoted as saying:  “We are going to use the ballot box and the democratic process to stop all hunting in the United States.  We will take it species by species until all hunting is stopped in California.  Then we will take it state by state.” (Humane Society of the United States President and CEO Wayne Pacelle)

Please don’t wait. Visit the Hunt For Truth website and Facebook page and “like us, “share us with your friends, and anyone else you think may be interested in helping to fight this serious assault on hunting.  You can also follow Hunt for Truth on YouTube.

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Anti-gun Condors Conservation Hunting Legislation Shooting sports State

From the CRPA:

In a victory for hunters and sport shooters, on August 8, 2012, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) rejected a proposal to expand the existing ban on the use of lead ammunition that applies to hunting in certain parts of California. The proposal would have expanded the existing ban on the use of lead ammunition, now applicable only in the limited “Condor Zone” created by AB 821, to also include State Wildlife Areas, Ecological Reserves, and depredation hunts.

More information can be found here.