For Immediate Release:
December 22, 2008
Big Sur, California
Biologists from Ventana Wildlife Society‘s condor recovery project in Big Sur made a grim discovery on Sunday, Dec. 21. They found the lifeless body of a wild California Condor chick lying in thick brush beneath a tall stand of redwoods, only one half mile from it’s coastal nest site. The wild male chick, known as No. 475, was recently observed making short flights in the nest area, which is normal behavior for a 9-month-old condor. Condor No. 475 was wearing a radio tag that alerted biologists there was trouble when it began emitting a mortality signal on the morning of Dec. 21. Ventana Wildlife Society biologists, Mike Tyner and Jessica Koning, tracked the signal through thick brush into a very steep coastal ravine and finally located the chick lying motionless on the ground. Condor No. 475 will be examined more closely at San Diego Zoo‘s pathology lab. The cause of death is unknown at this time.
Condor 475 is one of three wild chicks produced by the wild condor flock in Big Sur this year. The other two surviving wild chicks, No. 470 and No. 477, continue to grow strong and are a little further along in development.
“It’s always very difficult to lose such a young condor like #475. We really wish all of the chicks could make it”, commented Joe Burnett, Ventana Wildlife Society senior wildlife biologist.
Last year the Big Sur flock produced two wild condor chicks and one survived, which is expected naturally, a 50 percent survival rate for condor chicks in the wild. This year three chicks were raised in wild nests and two are still alive.
“While the loss of a wild chick is never easy, we still feel very fortunate to have two of the three chicks surviving in the wild this year,” said Kelly Sorenson, Ventana Wildlife Society executive director.
Ventana Wildlife Society biologists believe that there could be as many as four wild condor chicks just in Big Sur in 2009. The condor population reached an all-time low of 22 in 1982. Through captive breeding and subsequent releases, the total condor population now stands at 326. In central California, there are 47 free-flying condors (three of which are wild-born).