Twice a year in early summer and late Fall the Southern California Condor population is trapped for health checks by Joseph Brandt and his team of wildlife biologists. Partners from the Santa Barbara Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo and the Great Basin Institute provide more hands to handle approximately 80 birds in the So Cal wild population. In 1982 there were only 23 California Condors left in the world, faced with extinction and with some controversy, the US Fish & Wildlife helped to capture the last wild Condor and bring him into captivity. Beginning in the late 1990’s after captive breeding success’s , a release program was started. Today there are a little over 400 California Condors in the world and about half of them live in the wild. Their current range is shown in the California Condor Recovery Program. Each year more Condors are released into the wild but the population still faces 2 major threats to the recovery of the species, the biggest being lead poisoning. Condors are vultures and only eat carrion, they do not kill their own prey. Many times these dead animals have been shot with lead bullets and the fragments from those bullets can be ingested and cause serious harm to the birds and eventual death. Condors are not the only birds affected by lead poisoning sadly, we see many raptors such as the Bald eagle, golden eagle, red-tail hawk and others become ill with lead poisoning. Dr. Myra Finkelstein from UC Santa Cruz is working on the lead poisoning project.
To bring hunters on board theInstitute for Wildlife Studies works with gun owners to switch to non-lead options.
The second threat to California Condors is microtrash ingestion. This problem is generally seen in chicks being fed by their parents. Young Condors rely on their parents for food for the first year of their life. Biologists believe that Condors mistake microtrash for small pieces of bone. The reason bone may be used for calcium intake as part of the Condors nutrition.
What can you do to help the California Condor?
- If you hunt or know someone that does, switch over to non-lead ammunition.
- Pick up trash wherever you go!
- Volunteer with US Fish & Wildlife, US Forest Service, The Santa Barbara Zoo or The Great Basin Institute.