A new documentary by Boise filmmaker Matthew Podolsky links lead ammunition to the
sickness and illness of endangered condors the Peregrine Fund is trying to save.
“Scavenger Hunt,” produced by Boise non-profit Wild Lens, tells the remarkable story of the restoration of condors to the wild in Arizona by the Peregrine Fund. And it shows how lead poisoning is threatening this success story.
“This film is important for hunters and anyone else who cares about the future of conservation and hunting,” said Chris Parish, the Boise-Based Peregrine Fund’s field operations chief. “The key to preserving this magnificent species is understanding that the answer to the problem is as simple as switching to non-lead ammunition for taking game and varmints, or removing lead-tainted remains from the field.”
Podolsky, who produced and directed the film, had worked on the condor project, giving him a hands-on knowledge of the captive breeding techniques that have made the Peregrine Fund a world leaders in raptor recovery programs.
He filmed Parish, physicians, veterinarians, hunters, National Rifle Association officials and others in the documentary designed to push the effort to move to other metals for ammunition.
Parish and his crew capture the 75 wild condors in the Arizona-Utah flock once or twice a year to test them for lead poisoning. In the past season, nearly half of the condors tested were treated with chelation therapy, which helps to eliminate lead from their bodies. In extreme cases, X-rays sometimes show that the poisoned birds still have fragments of lead in their digestive systems.
“It’s been my experience that when hunters are asked if they would risk potential poisoning of eagles and condors from the small bits of lead left in the remains of harvested animals, the response is, ‘Absolutely not!’,” Parish said. “People just need to understand that the fragments are so small, yet so toxic.”
Podolsky said the film credits hunters in Arizona for playing a key role in address the lead issue and seeking solutions.
“While we were shooting video, what had started as a small local issue exploded into a national political debate,” Podolsky said in a press release. “We hope that this film will allow hunters to get the credit they deserve for helping protect one of the world’s most endangered bird species.”