Modeling Lead Exposure Risk for the critically endangered California Condor

Authors: Evan McWreath*, West Virginia University, Jonathan C Hall, West Virginia Unitvesity, Jesse Fallon, West Virginia University, Darren Gross, West Virginia Universtiy, Joseph Brant, USFWS, Melissa Braham, West Virginia University, Michael Lanzone, Cellular Tracking Technologies, Andrew McGann, Cellular Tracking Technologies
Topics: Animal Geographies, Biogeography, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: animal movement, blood-lead concentrations, California condor, Gymnogyps californianus, lead exposure, ecotoxicology, wildlife disease
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Maurepas, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Management of human influences on the environment have been the focus of wildlife conservation for many years. Since the 1980’s managment of critically endangered California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) has shown significant success, however, population expansion is restricted by many anthropogenically induced hazards in their habitat. To contribute to the understanding of these risk, this study analyzes the condor’s landscape and behavioral characteristics to evaluate its risk to lead poisoning. Their exposure most commonly comes from feeding on carcasses of animals left behind by hunters that contain bullet fragments. We analyse the landscape characteristics and movement ecology of 31 condors between June 2014 and December 2017 during their potential lead exposure periods. This was done by combining biannually measured blood lead levels (BLL) to their associated ground locations acquired from GPS telemetry units to assess their interactions with different landscapes, such as protected areas, hunting zones, urban areas, and provisioned feeding areas. Preliminary studies show that condors with low BLLs (<10μg/dl) spend only 35% of their ground time off of protected lands and condors with high BLLs (>35 μg)/dl) spend nearly 70% of their ground time off protected areas lands, indicating that time spent on protected grounds is an important factor in the understanding of lead exposure. The results of this work are used to generate an overlay analysis of landscape characteristics that influence the condor’s exposure to lead, which may offer insight to where management efforts need to be focused in the future.

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