Endangered condors dying from lead poisoning

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

Five California condors have died during the past few months after ingesting lead ammunition left in carcasses.

Another of the rare birds is fighting for its life at Scottsdale's Liberty Wildlife. The bird, Condor #409, has levels of lead almost 10 times greater than normal.

There are around 80 of the condors flying free along the Arizona-Utah border after reintroduction of the almost extinct birds began in 1996. Each year, all the condors are caught and tested for high levels of lead. This year, just under 50 percent of the birds tested positive for the poisoning, which is often fatal.

Condor #409 has to be caught and forced fed daily at Liberty Wildlife because the high levels of lead keep the bird from swallowing. Terry Stevens of Liberty said the bird's condition is guarded while it goes through a series of treatments to eliminate the lead from it's bone marrow and blood.

While the Center for Biological Diversity has filed a lawsuit that would ban the use of lead ammunition where the condors roam near the Grand Canyon, right now the choice is optional for those who shoot or hunt in that area