Our mission: To promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports.
The following is an op-ed authored by Gerry Perry, Arizona wildlife biologist (retired regional supervisor for Arizona Game and Fish Department), Tucson, Ariz.:
Recently, newspaper articles in several states show how politically-motivated, anti-hunting groups and activists are pushing messages in the hopes of turning public opinion away from hunters -- or better yet -- deter some from going afield by suggesting a negative cause and effect between a hunter's choice of ammunition and the condor.
While these stories in the newspaper, are sad, they just don't provide all the hard facts, specifically as it relates to lead ammunition. Hunters have been using lead ammunition for hundreds of years. As one can deduce condors are susceptible to a variety of types of mortality, and simply pointing out lead related deaths further demonstrates the politically motivated angle that anti-hunting groups have on their agenda -- ban lead ammunition. Because of a public education effort by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona hunters (90% plus) are now cooperators and using non-lead ammunition in the condors range. Placing blame and fault for every condor death on lead ammunition and hunters is nothing more but a political game to further restrict hunting in Arizona.
As it relates to condors the facts are, the establishment of a viable condor population in this area has been and will continue to be difficult mainly because of the nature of the area and the limited food base. Wild ungulates existing here in condor habitat are deer, bison, antelope and elk. Densities of these animals are minimal, with a total number of bison only about 300, deer about 2 per square mile plus an unknown number of migrants, antelope around 400, and elk not even 1 per square mile. These animals don't naturally die in abundance enough to sustain carrion eating condors. Hunters taking these animals leaving a pile of offal are a major source of food. Since without hunters dollars, these animals would not exist here in the numbers they are now present, or in the case of bison, at all, there would be no opportunity for condors to subsist. Livestock also provide a source of dead animals from natural mortality. Without a viable livestock industry in condor habitat, and the attendant livestock mortality and big game hunting, there is little to subsist even a small condor population. Greater artificial feeding than as is currently being practiced may be the only option should other sources of food be reduced or eliminated. Without hunting, this habitat would not support condors. Unfortunately these facts are missing from the recent pieces related to condors and their deaths.
Hunters care deeply about our outdoors and our wildlife - condors included - and have often been the loudest voice in support of conservation and sound management practices and hunters are an integral part of success for Arizona's wildlife. That is why over 90% of hunters in condor habitat voluntarily cooperate to reduce lead presence in animal carrion available to condors.
In 1937, Congress passed the Pittman-Robertson Act, an excise tax on all ammunition, firearms and other hunting equipment, which is used for wildlife management and habitat conservation. This tax, which provides millions of dollars for habitat conservation each year provides the very habitat that has allowed our wildlife population, to be so successful.
Hunters were the first group to take action to protect/conserve an enhance America's wildlife over 100 years ago. They will continue to do so in the future by making choices that favor this legacy they have protected and nurtured over the past 100 years. To denigrate their contributions is disingenuous.