California’s endangered condor could return to the Pacific Northwest region for the first time in more than a century as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service plans to allow captive-bred animals to be released into Redwood National Park.
The proposal aims to begin the process as early as this fall to create a “nonessential experimental population” for Northern California, specifically, in Oregon and northwestern Nevada.
The Yurok tribe, which has always considered the condor to be a sacred animal in their traditions, will be responsible for the project. They have been working tirelessly for years to bring the species back to their ancestral territory.
“Certainly within a year, we hope to have birds in the sky. Not having him here for 100 years now, we as a people are wounded without having that spirit flying in our skies,” Director of the Wildlife Department of the Yurok tribe, Tiana Williams-Claussen said.
The California condor is North America’s largest native bird, reaching a wingspan of up to 10 feet. The majestic creature is a scavenger that once inhabited the entire region before quickly disappearing in the 1970s due to poachers, lead poisoning, and habitat destruction.
In the 1980s, there were only 22 condors left in the wild, which were trapped by authorities who then transferred the animals to a captive-breeding program. Officials began releasing some of the flying creatures into the Los Padres National Forest in Southern California in 1992.
The number of condors in the flock has been steadily increasing and expanding its range. There are now condors occupying areas in California’s Central Coast, Arizona, Utah, and Baja California, Mexico. Official counts tally more than 300 birds in existence.
Last summer, a wildfire that raged through Big Sur along California’s Central Coast killed off a dozen adult birds and two chicks, the Associated Press reported.
The new initiative would result in the release of four or six juvenile condors every year for two decades. The animals would be able to roam freely across Redwood National Park. The massive creatures can live for up to 60 years.