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California condors seen in Sequoia National Park after nearly 50 years

Posted at 4:11 PM, Jul 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-07 19:11:12-04

California condors were spotted atop Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park in late May for the first time in nearly half a century.

An endangered bird that's been recently reintroduced, the California condor continues to reoccupy the Sierra Nevada Mountains and foothills.

"Condors were consistently seen throughout the parks until the late 1970s. Observations became increasingly rare throughout the latter portion of the century as the population declined," said wildlife biologist with Sequoia and Kings National Park Tyler Coleman. "Four condors were spotted flying near the Giant Forest and at least two near Moro rock."

Biologist Dave Meyer said the Santa Barbara Zoo tracks the condors' movements using GPS transmitters and also documented the birds' signals around the Giant Forest.

The data gathered from GPS tracking helps identify important condor habitat, locate nesting and feeding activity, find sick or injured condors and locate condors that have died.

In 1982, all 22 condors left in the wild were trapped and brought into captivity to prevent extinction by using them in a captive breeding program.

By 1992, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife services and partner organizations began releasing condors back into the wild in the Los Padres National Forest. The condor population has since grown to about 100 birds.

Those birds occupy regions of Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Kern, Tulare, Fresno and Madera Counties.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, lead poisoning is the primary cause of diminished condor population. It is responsible for half of the identifiable causes of death of the California Condor and significantly impedes the population's ability to recovery.

Condors become poisoned by lead after feeding on carcasses of dead animals that often contain fragments of lead ammunition.