Fragments of ammunition left behind by hunters' bullets are poisoning California's critically endangered condors at “epidemic levels,” according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. Researchers say the species will not recover unless the government places more stringent controls on hunting ammunition. While a 2007 law signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger banned lead ammunition in the condors’ range, nearly 20 percent of the birds were found to have potentially fatal lead levels. Surveys had shown high rates of compliance with the law, but the scavenging birds remain vulnerable, given the that they eat 75 to 150 dead animals each year. “If just one has a lead bullet fragment, that can be enough to kill the bird,” said Myra Finkelstein, a research toxicologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Environmental groups are now pushing for a country-wide ban on lead ammunition.
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