From Ventana Wildlife Society
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 30, 2014
Contact: Kelly Sorenson, Executive Director
Ventana Wildlife Society
Additional Recommended Contact:
Rafael Payan, General Manager of Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District
Strategy for Coastal California Condors Advances
Ventana Wildlife Society has been releasing condors to central California since 1997. Condors are provided lead-free carcasses to minimize the threat of lead poisoning and to encourage the birds to expand their range. As the birds grow older and more efficient at finding food they take advantage of naturally occurring carcasses on the landscape. In 2013, a total of nine condors died in central California, mostly due to lead poisoning, which represented nearly 15% of the wild flock. In response, Ventana Wildlife Society leadership decided to step up its’ efforts to set up more feeding areas from Carmel to San Simeon to attract the birds to more coastal feeding areas where they will find marine mammals to eat.
One of these new sites was approved by the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District at Palo Corona Regional Park last year and for the last several months, VWS biologists have been baiting it with carcasses. Condor #236, also known as “Tiny” because this female condor is typically three or four pounds less in weight than the average condor, was the first to find the Palo Corona site July 17. The following day, five other condors joined her to feed, including Condor #190 which is a breeding aged female currently raising a chick in a wild Big Sur nest. “We’re very excited about this new development because it shows that our strategy is working to expand the condor range to more coastal areas”, said Ventana Wildlife Society’s executive director, Kelly Sorenson. “Condors have been seen in the Carmel area before but now we’re seeing them more often”
Recovery of the California condor is still tenuous due to ongoing lead poisoning, primarily from spent lead ammunition. Since 2012, Ventana Wildlife Society has been providing free nonlead ammunition to hunters and ranchers in Monterey and San Benito Counties were the majority of the central California flock exists. Through nonlead ammunition giveaways and new regulations banning lead ammunition, condor deaths are expected to decrease over time and therefore full recovery of the California condor is on the horizon. “Our coastal strategy is really about giving us more time to deal with lead poisoning and to encourage the birds to utilize the coast more. Marine mammals, such as California Sea Lions and whales, are an important food source for condors”, said Sorenson.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, sea lions were often shot to protect dwindling salmon fisheries, and other marine mammals were persecuted for blubber to fuel oil lamps and for other purposes. Diminishing populations of marine mammals, a food source for scavenging condors, coincided with the range retraction of condors to the south and inland where the birds could survive primarily on terrestrial mammals such as livestock, deer, pigs, and ground squirrels. By the 1980’s, there were only 22 condors remaining in the wild in southern California. Sea Lions and other marine mammals have been protected for decades, and their numbers are rebounding rapidly, making coastal areas very important for condors.
Through successful captive breeding at San Diego Zoo Global, Los Angeles Zoo, World Center for Birds of Prey, and the Oregon Zoo, condor numbers have increased substantially. In central California, the Ventana Wildlife Society and Pinnacles National Park co-manage the recovery effort and collaborate with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Release programs, such as the collaborative effort in central California, enable the birds to be released to the wild and eventually recover. In addition to the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, the Big Sur Land Trust also collaborates with condor recovery partners on another strategic feeding area located on a nearby property although the condors have not yet fed at this location.
Photographs: Two date-stamped photos are provided as taken by motion-activated camera which is checked every two weeks by biologists.
Note: Condor sightings can be reported by sending an email to CondorSightings@ventanaws.org. Be sure to include date, time, condor numbers, photo if one exists, and any other details about the sighting.