SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) and The Peregrine Fund are offering prizes to hunters who use non-lead ammunition or who remove all big game remains from the field when hunting with lead ammunition in an effort to help endangered California condors.
This Hunters Helping Condors program, now in its tenth year, began in Utah as a way to help these endangered birds avoid extinction. California condors were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1967, and by 1982, only 22 California condors were left in the world.
Because of this perilous decline, the remaining wild condors were captured and held in captivity for safekeeping, which gave rise to an extremely successful captive breeding program that allowed reintroduction of the endangered birds back to the wild.
Currently, the California condor population has more than 500 birds, with over half of those flying free in the wild. There are currently 103 condors in the wild Arizona/Utah population.
“Lead poisoning is the leading cause of death for free-flying condors in Utah and Arizona,” said DWR Avian Conservation Program Coordinator Russell Norvell. “A frequent source of that lead is the remains of shot animals, a common meal for condors.
"The Hunters Helping Condors program is helping to reduce condors' exposure to lead, which is helping in the recovery of these unique birds that play an important role in the ecosystem.”
Prior to each hunting season, the DWR issues a coupon to hunters who draw a permit in the Zion Unit in southern Utah (where California condors can be found) which allows them to obtain free or heavily discounted non-lead ammunition.
During October, the DWR also has check stations where hunters who take actions to help condors can enter to win one of five $800 gift cards donated by The Peregrine Fund for outdoor equipment. The hunters must stop at a check station and demonstrate their use of non-lead ammunition during their big game hunts in the area, or they can show they removed all the remains of their harvested animal from the field.
Check stations are in place at the following locations and will be open from 11am to dusk on the following dates:
- At the intersection of Yellowjacket Road and Hancock Road, which is approximately 3.25 miles north of the entrance to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. This checkpoint will be open on Oct. 16, 17, 23, 24, 25, 26, 30 and 31.
- On SR-14 in Cedar Canyon East of Cedar City, between Rusty's Ranch House and Milt's Stage Stop. This checkpoint will be open on Oct. 16, 17, 23, 24, 25, 30 and 31.
“We greatly appreciate all our partners in this program and all the hunters who make an effort to assist in the conservation of this incredible species,” said DWR Wildlife Biologist Keith Day.