Poisoned, wounded Californina condor treated at Los Angeles

Los Angeles (AP) — A California condor captured because it
appeared sickly was found to not only be suffering from lead
poisoning but also had been shot, animal experts said Friday.

Unable to eat on its own, the condor was under intensive care at
the Los Angeles Zoo and its prognosis was guarded, said Susie
Kasielke, curator of birds.

X-rays taken at the zoo turned up shotgun pellets embedded in
its flesh, she said. Those wounds had healed.

It could not be determined if the pellets were lead or steel,
but the poisoning was most likely caused by the bird ingesting
spent lead ammunition in carcasses of animals that had been shot by
hunters, Kasielke said.

Condors are carrion-eaters and such poisoning by lead ammunition
has long been recognized as a problem. California requires hunters
to use only non-lead ammunition in the condors’ range. It is also
illegal to shoot a condor.

Giant California condors are an endangered species, and the
federal government has been working for years to establish breeding
populations in the wild.

The ailing condor, a nearly 7-year-old dubbed No. 286, was a
dominant member of a flock on the central California coast until
late January, when biologists from Pinnacles National Monument and
the Ventana Wildlife Society noticed it was suddenly being pushed
around by younger birds, the conservation society said.

Biologists tried to capture it because the behavior indicated
health problems. They were unsuccessful until March 4, when it
appeared wobbly on its feet. Tests showed a potentially fatal lead
exposure and the condor was sent to the zoo.

Kasielke said that if the condor survives it would stay at the
zoo for several weeks, but could be returned to the wild.

Exactly how long ago the bird was shot could not be determined,
she said.

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