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More California Condors Will Fly Free at Pinnacles National Monument

On Thursday, October 28, three California condors will be released into the wild at Pinnacles National Monument, 80 miles south of San Jose. Originally planned for October 15, the release was delayed after two of the wild condors were observed perching on local power poles in the last two weeks. Electrocution and collisions with power lines historically have been significant threats to wild condors. Since the juvenile condors to be released are likely to mimic the behavior of the wild birds, biologists will recapture the two errant wild birds prior to releasing the new cohort of juvenile birds. In addition, project staff will modify two of the flight pen support poles to more closely resemble local power poles, and to deliver a mild shock to condors that attempt to perch on them. These modifications are needed prior to the release of the new birds, leading to the delay from the original release date. This technique has proved successful in other release sites.

This is only the second release of the endangered birds at the park. Project biologists anticipate releasing up to 30 condors at Pinnacles, historic breeding ground for the massive birds, over the next several years. The reintroduction of California condors to Pinnacles National Monument is a cooperative effort between the Ventana Wilderness Society and the National Park Service in partnership with the California Condor Recovery Team.

"We are terrifically encouraged by the success of this first year," said Park Superintendent Cicely Muldoon. "The birds are thriving, the visitors are thrilled with routine condor sightings in the park, and we are proud to be a part of the recovery of this magnificent species."

Six juvenile condors -- five female and one male -- will be set free in Pinnacles National Monument this fall, joining the park's five wild resident condors. Three birds will be released on October 28, and the other three will remain in captivity for another one to two weeks to help ensure that the free-flying birds remain nearby for biologists to monitor. The six juvenile condors are 16-18 months old and were hatched at the Los Angeles Zoo and the San Diego Wild Animal Park. They have been acclimating to their new home in a 20 foot by 40 foot flight pen at Pinnacles since their arrival at the site in spring, 2004. Sometime this winter, six more juvenile condors are expected to arrive at the Pinnacles. Those birds likely will be released in 2005.

"It is finally a reality - California condors are once again free-flying in the Gabilan and Diablo mountains, where this species was absent for over 30 years. We are successful because of a great deal of hard work and dedication from all of the Recovery Program collaborators," said Ventana Wilderness Society Executive Director Kelly Sorenson.

Ventana Wilderness Society, which has been conducting condor releases in Big Sur, California since 1997, teamed up with the National Park Service in 2003 to reintroduce condors to Pinnacles National Monument.

The San Diego Wild Animal Park, Los Angeles Zoo, the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho and the Oregon Zoo breed condors destined for release in California, Arizona, and Baja, Mexico. The Pinnacles condor release is an important link in the overall condor recovery effort.

From a population low of 22 birds in the mid-1980s, condors have rebounded through intensive captive breeding efforts, and today 141 are in captivity, and 105 are in the wild. The overall goal for California is to have 150 free-flying condors in the state.

The public is invited to attend the October 28, 11:00 a.m. event and witness the release of the condors from a viewing area located approximately a mile from the facility. The release will take place on the east side of the park off of Highway 25. Shuttle services from designated parking areas will transport guests to within a mile and a quarter of viewing area. Guests unable to walk the remaining mile can request special assistance. Spotting scopes, binoculars, water, layered clothing and good hiking shoes are highly recommended. Parking is limited, and is on a first come, first served basis; arrival by 9:00 a.m. is recommended. Further details of the release event are available on the Pinnacles National Monument website or by calling Pinnacles National Monument at 831-389-4485 x 224.

www.ventanaws.org
Ventana Wilderness Society has been saving native California wildlife through research, restoration and education for more than twenty-five years. In 1997, their expertise in wildlife restoration allowed VWS to become the first private, non-profit organization to be responsible for releasing and monitoring California condors in the wild. In addition to their work with condors, VWS has been involved with the restoration of prairie falcons, peregrine falcons and bald eagles to the Big Sur and Central Coast Region. VWS also monitors songbird populations and carries out a number of research contracts through the Big Sur Ornithology Lab, including identifying bird responses to habitat restoration and tracking monarch butterfly population fluctuations and migration patterns. Ventana Wilderness Society also provides innovative and exciting environmental education and internship opportunities to youth and young adults throughout the Central Coast Region.
www.nps.gov/pinn
The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage. Established in 1908, Pinnacles National Monument preserves 24,000 acres encompassing the spectacular remnants of an ancient volcano, talus caves, a rich array of California native plant and animal communities, and a vibrant cultural and historical legacy. Pinnacles is a highly dynamic landscape, shaped by earthquakes, floods and fires. Nearly 70 percent of the park is designated wilderness, and preserves the wilderness qualities of unspoiled habitat, natural quiet, dark night skies and solitude in a rapidly developing region of California. Pinnacles National Monument is the first national park unit to serve as a release site for California condors.

Pinnacles News

  • Tom Higgins Shares His Recollections Of A Classic

    We selected the streak we did climb because a side view suggested it might not be as steep at the top as other lines we examined, but the view from underneath still shocked us so much we just stopped looking and thinking about what was up there.

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