Biologists are attempting to bring one of the most endangered species in America back from the edge of extinction, the California Condor. For the first time since 1904, the California Condor has been seen in San Mateo County, California, marking a huge comeback for the endangered species. San Mateo County is just south of San Francisco and covers the majority of the southern portion of the San Francisco peninsula. The California condor or Gymnogyps californianus is a New World vulture and the largest North American land bird with a wingspan that can reach over ten feet in length.
The courageous condor numbered 597, but commonly called Lupine, was photographed close to the town of Pescadero, about six miles from Ano Nuevo State Park. The park is famous for the over 10,000 elephant seals that frequently breed there during mating season, giving condors a viable food source. The picture was taken by a motion-activated camera and sent to the Ventana Wildlife Society once the property owner noticed the image on June 10.
Since condors have been reintroduced to the wild, in recent decades, they have spread along the California coast and Central California area. Kelly Sorenson, executive director of the Ventana Wildlife Society said it is possible that later down the road condors could begin to nest in the Santa Cruz Mountains and feed on marine mammals that frequently wash up on the beach. The endangered species have often survived up to sixty years in captivity and, under model conditions they could perhaps live for an equivalent amount of time in the wild, said a member of the California Fish and Wildlife Service. The oldest known wild California condor is currently 30 years old.
It shows that the endangered species of California condors are really spreading out to their original range and making a comeback. “It’s very exciting. It shows that we’re on the right track. The population is expanding. They are breeding on their own and they are finding food on their own,” said Sorenson. Condors once ranged from British Columbia all the way down to Mexico, but because of lead poisoning, aggressive hunting and overall habitat loss, the majestic birds’ population dropped to just 22 across the United States by 1982.
The primary threat to condors has been poisoning from ingesting lead shot while eating dead animals killed by hunters; however, pesticides and poaching can also pose problems, biologists say. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law banning the use of lead bullets in hunting statewide by 2019.
In a risky move to avoid complete extinction, federal biologists suggested a plan to capture all remaining wild condors back in 1987. Those against the plan argued that the condors had the right to freedom as all animals do and that seizing all of the condors would modify the species’ behaviors. Critics also cited the great financial cost of the ambitious plan. Nonetheless, the plan received the consent of the United States government, and the capture of all the wild condors was finished on Easter Sunday 1987. There were only 22 known condors in existence. Scientists started breeding them in zoos and the birds’ descendants have been progressively freed to fly into their natural habitat. The majestic birds were once prevalent across North America, particularly along the Northern California coast, where the Native American Yurok tribe named them “pre-go-neesh.”
Today the Endangered Species of the California condor population has made a comeback and grown to 433, which are up from 384 in 2010. Of those 433, 238 live in the wild in Southern California, Arizona, Utah and Mexico. The other 195 condors live in captivity at the Los Angeles Zoo and the San Diego Wild Animal Park.
By B. Taylor Rash