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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus

Sierra Club
Condors to soar above Pinnacles once again | by Debbie Bulger

  Peter and Celia Scott
  A rare California Condor delights visitors at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in August. Educational signs warn people not to disturb or feed the huge birds.
Building on the successful reintroduction of condors to the Ventana Wilderness, the National Park Service, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ventana Wilderness Society, will release condors at the Pinnacles National Monument this winter.

Wildlife biologist, Amy Fesnock, estimates that six condors will be released at the Pinnacles in early December. Currently, workers are constructing the release facility between North and South Chalone Peaks. When birds are in the pens at the release facility, the trail between North and South Chalone Peaks will be closed. The release facility will not be visible from North Chalone Peak. Members of the public will be able to view the birds and the release process by remote video camera via the internet. In addition, the park is constructing educational exhibits about the reintroduction of the condors.

Once the first group of condors is released a second group of six will be moved to holding pens on site. There the captive-born birds will learn needed skills from a “mentor condor” over an approximately nine-month period and will ultimately be released in September of 2003. The process will continue until a population of between 20 to 30 birds is established. Additional releases may take place over the next 15 years.

The California Condor was formerly found throughout Central and Southern California. They are huge birds with a 9-foot wingspan. Their decline to near extinction resulted from pesticides, lead poisoning and habitat destruction. Once established in the Pinnacles, the released condors will be left food by biologists for safety reasons. Released condors have died because they ingested lead bullets from dead animals. The Ventana Wilderness Society is working on an education program to alert school children and others about poisoning danger to scavenger birds such as condors and vultures.

Central Coast hikers are delighted to see the reintroduced condors in the Ventana. Soon this experience may be afforded to hikers in the Pinnacles.
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