Pacific Northwest Condor Population Doubles – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Four more California condors arrived in northern California on Tuesday

Condor A4, from the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey, looked very happy to emerge from his transport crate on Tuesday. [Matt Mais/Yurok Tribe]

A team of biologists, technicians and veterinarians marched silently near the mouth of the Klamath River on Tuesday morning with valuable cargo in tow – four young California condors slated for freedom this fall.

“We are extremely excited to receive the second cohort of condors,” said Tiana Williams-Claussen, Director of the Yurok Tribe Wildlife Department. “The first group of birds are adjusting well to their new home in the redwoods region. I can’t wait to see the eight condors flying freely over Yurok Country.

The newly arrived Prey-go-neesh (Yurok for condor) received health assessments and were fitted with aftercare equipment before being released into a large flight pen, where they will spend a month acclimating to the region before the gates open to the forest. beyond.

To complete the day’s tasks in a way that minimizes stress on the birds, Yurok Condor Restoration Program Manager Chris West and his team worked with their Northern California Condor Restoration Program partners. Redwood National and State Parks, Sequoia Park Zoo Veterinarians, Oregon Zoo. , Oakland Zoo and Yurok-affiliated technicians of the Great Basin Institute. Pinnacles National Park staff also participated throughout the day, as did several departments of the Yurok Tribe.

The newest members of the Yurok redwood herd – one female and three males – are all just under 2 years old. Two were from the Oregon Zoo breeding facility and two from the Peregrine Fund World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho.

The NCCRP, initiated and led by the Yurok Tribe, has since 2008 focused on “bringing Prey-go-neesh home” after an absence of more than a century.

“The partnership started with initial funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and then Redwood National Park came on board,” Williams-Claussen said. “Then the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Administration for Native Americans, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the Global Conservation Fund, the Redwood National Park Foundation and many other businesses, agencies and private supporters got involved.

“With all this support, we were able to mobilize an incredible diversity of resources to conduct the necessary research and do the work of building partnerships and developing the infrastructure that has allowed condors to fly freely today,” he said. she adds.

The prey-go-neesh are very social beings, so newcomers quickly befriended (through the fence) the four free-ranging birds released earlier in the year, but who always return to the facility. to feed on the carcasses provided there.

The free birds also return to hang out with Mentor – a “wise” older condor who stays inside the enclosure as a social magnet. The mentor helped teach them social skills and is now busy training new recruits in proper condor etiquette. Every night since their arrival, Mentor has held court on his favorite perch with the new cohort circled around him.

The stays of free birds can last from a few hours to several weeks. As they explore their home country and hone their essential skills, they are constantly watched. NCCRP reports indicate that “young condors are thriving in the redwood region. Birds consistently exhibit healthy behaviors, such as foraging, soaring, and finding safe perches.

With their wingspan of nearly 10 feet, condors are the largest flying land birds in North America. They are believed to be very intelligent and can live for over 60 years. They mate for life but usually do not breed until their eighth year, then they raise only one chick every two years. This slow reproductive rate has contributed to the decline of the species. Eagles can produce up to five chicks in the same amount of time.

Now, to help this new — and northernmost — population grow, the NCCRP will release cohorts of condors from the same location every year, for at least the next 20 years. In about six years, the herd of Yurok redwoods should begin to reproduce, and as the years go on, more and more people will be lucky enough to spot the sky giants from further and further away. Prey-go-neesh can travel over 150 miles a day in search of a meal.

Historically, condor problems came with European colonies – decades of deliberate poisoning, chemical pollution, poaching and habitat loss took their toll, and by 1987 there were only 22 Californian condors left. in the world. They were all captured and placed in breeding programs that proved so successful that releases back into the wild began barely a decade later. Today, more than 300 wild condors fly across the western skies of North America: in Arizona, California, Utah and Baja California, Mexico. Another 200 condors reside in captive breeding programs.

Lead ammunition is the biggest threat to condors, but there is hope.

As the NCCRP team and condor enthusiasts celebrate the arrival of this new cohort, their joy is tempered with concern. Condors, as well as many carrion-eating wildlife, can die a slow, excruciating death after ingesting lead found in intestines left behind by hunters. On impact, lead ammunition shatters into small pieces, and it only takes a tiny bit to kill a condor. (Fishing sinkers are another source of lead poisoning in animals.)

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, multiple studies of meat harvested from deer killed with lead ammunition indicate levels of contamination high enough to endanger human and wildlife health. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to reduce levels of lead considered safe for human health and now says no amount is safe for children or pregnant women.

Williams-Claussen said the biggest obstacle to establishing self-sustaining condor populations is lead poisoning, which currently causes 50% of condor mortality.

Once made aware of these dangers, most hunters “willingly switch to lead-free ammunition,” said Williams-Claussen, who helped launch Yurok’s Hunters as Stewards program.

“My wife is watching Yurok’s condor live camera a lot, and now I’m watching too,” said Medford resident Gary Morgan. “I used to think they were big and ugly, but now I think they’re awesome. They have so much individual personality, and you can tell they are really smart. I support them and I will never hunt with lead shot again. We all need to spread the word.

The Yurok say it is their sacred responsibility to save the condor and “part of a larger effort to regenerate the temperate rainforest ecosystem in Yurok ancestral territory.” The tribe is heavily committed to efforts to “restore fish and wildlife habitat on large sections of the Klamath River, Trinity River, and Prairie Creek, as well as other Klamath tributaries.”

Also deeply involved in the upcoming removal of the Klamath Dams – the largest river restoration project in US history, slated to begin next year – the tribe anticipates immeasurable benefits for many species of fish and wildlife, including condors, because it’s all connected, they say.

Contact Valley Illinois freelance writer Annette McGee Rasch at [email protected]

Chris West, director of the Northern California Condor Restoration Program, and Makayla Golden of the Yurok Wildlife Department attach a wing tag to one of the condors. [Matt Mais/Yurok Tribe]

Chris West, director of the Northern California Condor Restoration Program, and other members of the California Condor Restoration Project team manage one of the growing cohorts of condors released in Northern California. [Matt Mais/Yurok Tribe]

A close-up shows the formidable beak of a California condor. [Matt Mais/Yurok Tribe]

The first four condors released this year, now free, land atop an enclosure where four new condors are kept in preparation for release. Condors are very social beings, say biologists. [Matt Mais/Yurok Tribe]

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