Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Yurok Tribe effort aims to improve health of ecosystem

The Yurok Tribe has been working for years to restore California condor populations, primarily by getting hunters to switch to non-lead ammunition.

The Yurok Tribe's Wildlife Program will hold an "Alternatives to Lead" educational event at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka, where hunters can exchange lead ammo and reloading bullets for copper ammo and bullets.

The event is part of the tribe's Hunters as Stewards campaign, which aims to educate hunters on why removing lead from the ecosystem will benefit all scavenging animals, human health and possibly the California condor.

"When presented with accurate information and shown how well non-lead ammunition performs, most hunters decide to give it a try in an effort to clean up the food on their dinner table and the environment," said Mike Palermo, who is a biologist for the Wildlife Program and an avid hunter. "We invite hunters to bring their lead ammunition and bullets for exchange, and their most difficult questions about lead and non-lead ammo to the free event."

Recognizing that availability and price are the main reasons hunters don't move toward using non-lead, the tribe started the ammo exchange. All ammo is factory loaded by trusted manufacturers, the tribe said in a statement, and most common rifle cartridges and a variety of reloading calibers are available. There is an exchange limit one box per person.

Instead of supporting legislation banning the use of lead, the tribe believe hunters will switch on their own once they realize the environmental and public health consequences.

"Based on peer-reviewed research, lead in animal remains poses the largest limiting factor to restoring the bird's population in the Pacific Northwest, but is likely impacting many other scavenging animals in negative ways as well," the tribe said in a press release. Since lead has been banned from paint and gasoline, one of the last pathways to humans and wildlife is from lead ammo.

"California condors once ranged from Baja California, Mexico, to British Columbia. Prey-go-neesh is one of the most culturally significant animals to the Yurok Tribe. The bird carries prayers to the Creator and its feathers are used in ceremonies," the release said.

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