By Julian Hattem - 08/13/13 09:35 PM EDT
The birds can accidentally eat fragments of lead bullets when they feast on the carcasses of dead animals shot by hunters.
In his statement, McCain said that the federal government should adopt a strategy to get hunters to voluntarily stop using lead bullets, as Arizona and Utah have done, and promote other types instead.
“I intend to ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do more to acknowledge and support this approach,” he said. “I also believe there’s a role for ammunition manufacturers and distributors to raise awareness about the benefits of non-lead products to the condor.”
To prevent the proliferation of lead ammo and protect the birds, California is currently considering legislation that would ban the ammunition.
McCain said he did not support that legislation because it is “unfair to the sporting community that has a vested interest in enjoying healthy game populations.”
“It is also unclear that there would be demonstrable benefit to the condor,” he added.
Private, state and federal officials have teamed up for years to protect the California condor, of which there were as few as nine in 1985.
Populations have rebounded and there are now over 200 flying in the wild.