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California in Brief / LOS ANGELES

5 condors have lead poisoning

June 04, 2008|From the Associated Press

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials are in "crisis mode" because at least five endangered California condors have been found with lead poisoning in the weeks leading up to a statewide ban on lead bullets.

The birds started turning up sick about a month ago during random trappings at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Kern County's southwestern San Joaquin Valley foothills. One bird died during treatment at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Since there are only about 34 of the endangered birds in Southern California, officials called the number significant.

Jesse Grantham, the agency's condor coordinator, said that officials won't know the source of the contamination until next week, but that the birds probably were poisoned by eating tainted carcasses at Bitter Creek, Lake Piru or on Tejon Ranch. Of the three areas, only Tejon Ranch allows hunting.

Tejon spokesman Barry Zoeller said the landholder is worried. The ranch banned the use of lead bullets six months ago.

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