A 270,000-acre private ranch in the Tehachapi Mountains, Tejon Ranch is a popular hunting ground. Just 23 California condors were alive 25 years ago, but thanks to a breeding program, the state’s condor population has risen to 70, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Parts of Tejon Ranch are important feeding and roosting grounds for the giant vultures, said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate for the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity. The condors have been seen as far south as Placerita Canyon and Bear Divide near Newhall. Lead bullets remain a primary threat to the birds. Tejon Ranch’s ban on the bullets was applauded by environmental groups and the Fish and Wildlife Service. LEBEC – Hoping to protect rebounding condor populations, Tejon Ranch will ban hunters from using lead bullets on the massive property near the Los Angeles-Kern county line. When condors eat game felled by lead bullets, they risk ingesting the bullets and getting poisoned. A recent University of California, Santa Cruz, study backed up the threat posed to condors by lead bullets. “We know that hunters are really conservationists; they know the importance of balance in nature and the value of protecting endangered species,” said Barry Zoeller, spokesman for Tejon Ranch. “So we’re sure that they’re going to embrace this change on the ranch.” The ban goes into effect Jan. 1, 2008. Miller offered guarded praise for the ban. “It’s fantastic that they’re the first major entity to go lead-free for hunting,” he said. “But the flip side is they’re planning some major development … that’s going to devastate critical condor habitat.” Some 1,800 hunters a year visit Tejon Ranch, which is home to deer, elk, antelope, wild pigs, wild turkey and quail. Zoeller said an alternative to lead bullets are those made of copper and alloys, which he said work just as well. The delayed in the ban allows hunters to test those bullets, he added. [email protected] (661) 257-5253 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!