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The Great Condor Comeback

A pair of California Condors, Today’s Endangered All-Stars, are tending the first condor nest in the state’s Pinnacles National Monument in a hundred years. Biologists at Pinnacles, in the Gabilan Mountains east of the Salinas Valley, confirmed that Female 317 and Male 318 courted for “nearly a month” before an egg was laid. 57 days from now, biologists will be on tenterhooks to see if a nestling emerges; a young Condor requires 5-6 months to mature before taking its first flight from the cliff ledge. Since the 1980s, when only 22 California Condors remained on earth—and were removed from the wild to prevent their falling victim to poison or gunshot—the bird has made a slow but steady recovery, in captive breeding and reintroduction programs. According to Pinnacles National Monument, there are now 348 individuals: 95 in the wild in California, 18 in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, and 74 in Arizona. 161 remain in the captive breeding program. There was bad news last year, when Female 303—raising her own nestling on private property near Pinnacles belonging to the RS Bar Guest Ranch—died of lead poisoning. Fortunately, her offspring survived. California has banned the use of lead shot in Condor territory, and the Institute for Wildlife Studies is running an ammunition awareness program designed to get the word out to hunters. Here’s hoping that the offspring of 317 and 318 may soon soar over Pinnacles’ skies.
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