California lead ammunition ban in effect

The first phase of a bill passed by the California legislature took effect Wednesday and places restrictions on the use of lead ammunition in hunting.

Hunters are now required to use non-lead ammunition on all state Department of Fish and Wildlife lands and while hunting bighorn sheep anywhere in the state.

The department encourages shooters to acquire their ammo in advance due to possible shortages and test fire it to ensure its accuracy.

When news of the ban broke, industry groups got to work on economic projections and found that the ban could triple ammunition prices and force hunters out of the sport as a result.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation commissioned a 15-page study for the Fish and Game Commission at a Sacramento hearing in September 2014. The report scrutinized Assembly Bill 711, which was signed the year before and seeks to ban the use of all lead ammunition in hunting across the state by July 1, 2019. Lead ammunition will still be allowed for target shooting, but hunting anywhere near California Condors requires non-lead ammo.

The ban could be good news for condors, one of the world’s rarest bird species. It was widely reported the raptors and other scavengers birds in the state are showing high levels of lead poisoning as a result of their feeding on game animals shot with lead ammunition.

According to recovery program estimates, there are some 425 condors in the wild and captivity because of preservation efforts.   

The next phase comes on July 1, 2016, when lead ammunition will be banned from shotgun hunting of upland game birds – excluding dove, quail and snipe – small game mammals, fur-bearing mammals and non-game birds, except for when hunting at licensed game bird clubs, the wildlife department said.