‘Bring the Condor Back to Yurok Country’: Partnership Seeks to Reintroduce Sacred Bird to Pacific Northwest

Press release from US Fish and Wildlife, Redwood National Park Service, and the Yurok Tribe:

Condor with tags. [Photo from the National Park Service]

Condor with tags. [Photo from the National Park Service]

The majestic California condor once soared the skies over western North America from British Columbia to Mexico. However, by 1985, the condor had spiraled down to the brink of extinction, with only 22 birds remaining. These remaining birds were taken into captivity in a last ditch effort to save the species. That effort paid off. Today, thanks to three decades of dedicated work by a range of partners, 290 condors now fly free in the wild, all in the Desert Southwest and northern Baja Peninsula. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Yurok Tribe of Northern California and National Park Service are taking the next big step in the condor’s recovery with a proposal to reintroduce America’s largest land bird to parts of the Pacific Northwest, where it has not been seen for over a century.Building on a decade’s worth of preparation initiated by the Yurok Tribe, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to establish a collaboratively managed new California condor release facility in Redwood National Park, within the Tribe’s ancestral territory. Like the southwestern population, this new population would be given the special status of “Nonessential, Experimental” under the Endangered Species Act, which would provide protections to the released birds while also allowing flexibility to landowners and other stakeholders potentially affected by the reintroduction of this federally listed endangered species.

“For ten years, we have been laying the groundwork to bring the condor back to Yurok Country,” said Joseph L. James, Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “I am excited about the prospect of seeing the sacred prey-go-neesh soaring over Yurok skies. The Yurok Tribe is sincerely grateful for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s and Redwood National Park’s recent partnership in this effort to fill a crucial ecological niche and restore balance in our world.”

“This is an exciting time in the Condor’s history. After more than a hundred-year absence, this magnificent bird could once again fly high above the Pacific Northwest,” said Amedee Brickey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service California condor coordinator. “The successful reintroductions in southern California, Arizona and Mexico have taught us a great deal, and while challenges remain, we believe we have a model for success with these northern reintroductions.”

“This reintroduction is another chapter in the story of hope and perseverance that exemplifies condor recovery,” said Steve Mietz, Superintendent of Redwood National Park. “The Yurok Tribe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service have built a broad coalition of support for condor recovery which will serve as a model for collaborative restoration of a wide ranging species.”

With a wingspan of almost 10 feet, the California condor is the biggest soaring land bird on the North American continent. It is a scavenger, feeding on dead animals—nature’s original recycler. Native people throughout their historical range revere them, and the Yurok people have incorporated fallen condor feathers into sacred ceremonial practices since time immemorial.

The foundation of the successful condor reintroduction program in the Southwest has been strong, diverse and durable partnerships. Similar partnerships will be pivotal in the northwestern reintroductions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Yurok Tribe and the National Park Service are among 16 partners teaming up in this effort, including California Fish and Wildlife and local community groups.

The science behind the return of the California condor to its native range in the Pacific Northwest is strong. The reintroduction sites provide prime condor habitat, with redwood forests and mountain ranges that can provide ample roosting and nest habitat. Inland valleys and mountain top prairies, along with coastline will provide a mixture of land and marine food areas and food resources.

The two Department of the Interior bureaus and the Tribe are also announcing the availability of a joint Environmental Assessment that analyzes the potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed reintroduction and designation of a nonessential experimental population. The partners will host public meetings in northern California and Oregon to provide information and receive input on the proposal and the environmental assessment in May 2019. The schedule is available online at: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/meetingNotices.cfm?projectID=66364.

The proposal for establishing a Northwest condor population will publish in the Federal Register on April 5, 2019, opening a 60-day public comment period. The Service will consider comments from all interested parties received by June 4, 2019. Information on how to submit comments is available at www.regulations.gov by searching under docket number FWS–R1–ES–2018-033.

To learn more about the reintroduction effort and to view and comment on the Environmental Assessment associated with this action visit: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=66364

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27 comments

  • That will be cool. Can’t wait to see Cali Condors soaring again!

  • Early 80’s when my ex and I lived up on Kneeland we saw 2 Condors fly passed us while driving up the hill near the Maple Creek turn off. It was quite amazing.

    • Is CDFW going to phase out lead fishing weights over the next few years? Don’t condors eat salmon and steelhead too? Or was phasing out lead ammo mostly just about making it harder for people to aquire bullets?

      • I belive condors are scavenger s. Unlike eagles which catch live salmon n steelhead.

        • Yes, they are scavengers. That’s why they were getting lead poisoning from eating dead rabbits, coyotes, and gut piles with bullet fragments. They are amazing animals, and I hope they thrive.
          All though I’m sure it’s not common for slamon and steelhead to ingest lead sinkers, I could see condors eating lots of fish durring the spawn. Fish counters sometimes hack the dead spawn fish in half with a machette or throw them onto the bank with a pitch fork to keep from counting them twice. I just think it’s interesting that the “Get the lead out” program went for the bullets first. I think it would be hard to calculate how many pounds of lead get tossed into water systems annually. I know a not too smart person who fishes for halibut and looses a huge lead cannonball every time he hooks a fish.
          I bet there are still rural schools with lead pipes here in CA.

          • fish don’t ingest the weights. lead will only dissolve in water when the pH is below 5 which was the problem with the flint river water (low pH). balls are dropped with salmon rigs. I have never heard of anyone using that setup on halibut, it sounds dumb. when the ocean or river reaches a pH of 5 there won’t be any fish in it. lead shot is pretty simple to understand why it was banned. besides the health problems associated, it put most skeet ranges out of business due to the costly cleanup. the peninsula gun club in Burlingame is an example you can read about online.

            • Skeet shooters do just fine with steel shot, and it is so much better than lead. Steel shot goes farther, and has more velocity. I don’t know anyone who reloads anymore with lead.

  • Cue redneck jokes about condor recipes… 😂

  • Why did this bird go extinct in the North – West? It`s hard to imagine people shooting them although a certain class of cretin will shoot anything. Did they die out because of their food supply disappearing?

    • One of the biggest blows to the condors was road building into their realm in the south lannds after WWII, and the people who followed those roads. and hunting and yes lead.

    • Mr. Tambourine Man

      Not necessarily in this order:

      Habitat Degradation (Human Vector)
      DDT/DDE (leading to eggshell thinning and breakage)
      Reduction in genetic diversity (due to population decline)
      Excessive mortality from killing for sport or curiosity, killing for private collections, collecting for museums and scientific study. (primary cause of decline)
      Killing by ranchers to allegedly protect herds, but probably for sport. (this is an unknown contributor, but could be significant.)
      Lead Ingestion from carrion.
      Killing for quills, the gold rush story lacks much evidence (minor contribution, if any)
      Some losses due to rodenticides (likely a smaller contribution)

      Executive summary: Human vectors in Condor deaths make up largest cause of decline.

  • Fish and game wants almost all fishing stopped while raising the price of our license. Fish and game officer Fraley is against us using a 6 foot leader even though that is what fish and game said we can legally use. He told us it was immoral and wrong. He actually crossed the river in his boots and pants to hand out tickets to 5 people. One of my friends had a legally hooked fish and asked him if it was ok to keep. He said in his book no. Our fish and game is so against us anymore it’s pathetic. We are law abiding license holding people and they are against us.we get tickey for plucking a bird on the bank ? See get tickets for gutting a fish on the river bank. What happens when a Salmon dies in the river ? It feeds the river system. Just as gutting a fish but fresher and better . California laws suck and only getting worse. I will say I met warden Fraley on the beach fishing and I enjoyed my talk with him very much. But if your against us before you get out of your truck, it’s time to bring a different warden to that zone.

    • Are you complaining that you aren’t supposed to be flossing? When so many fish species are a tiny fraction of their historic population, we have little choice but to ease fishing pressure. Flossing is immoral. Fish are supposed to willingly take bait/lure, not be snagged in the mouth.

  • Hell yes bring back the Condor.
    First time I see one I will probably have some kind of shit fit.

  • Nobody mentions that the cost per bird — each year — is over $500,000. Seriously. Monitoring costs, having a veterinarian at all times, etc. Not sure I’m telling the truth? Ask the NPS. Seems like money could be better spent on habitat improvement for fish, housing, etc. I love the concept of returning the birds, but really? Millions for a few birds?

  • Mike Ross. It had to do with lead poisoning since they are at the top of the food chain for birds in North America . They only lay one egg per mating pair so there offspring rate is already compromised. Illegal hunting also took its toll. Beautiful birds. The first time I ran across a golden eagle in the wild while hunting here in humboldt was pretty impressive. That bird had a 6’ wing span. Spooked me when it flew off out of a close tree

  • Let the scavengers fly. It’s the least we can do. Hope they repopulate the king range what with all the marine mammals that wash up full of plastics or wrecked from military manuevers.

  • To much pesticides from illegal grows, they would get piosoned within 4 months.

  • I have been waiting for the day of the release of the Condors at Bald Hills. I have viewed other events such as this, and it makes me cry. I cry because something in me remembers the way it use to be, when there was cooperation with and dependence on nature. Why do people always come first (re Just Asking: $500,000 a bird that could be spent better on human services)? We are the ones who caused the imbalance in this ecosystem. Every species is threatened by our very existence, even our own. Once we realize that nature is priceless, we will put no artificial value on it and know that it is necessary for our own survival.

  • Skeet shooters do just fine with steel shot, and it is so much better than lead. Steel shot goes farther, and has more velocity. I don’t know anyone who reloads anymore with lead.

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