The California condor is the largest land bird in North America, with a wingspan of nearly 10 feet. Now, the endangered bird is being reintroduced to Redwood National Park and Yurok Ancestral Territory in California. It’s the first time in 100 years the bird will return to the region.
This return has significant ecological and cultural implications. A press release from the US Fish & Wildlife Service explains, “These massive vultures are essential members of their ecosystems and play a significant role in the spiritual and cultural beliefs of the Yurok Tribe, as well as many other Tribes, throughout northern California and the Pacific Northwest.”
While California condors used to be present everywhere from California to Florida (prehistory), and later from Western Canada to Northern Mexico, by the mid-20th century their population had dramatically declined due to poaching and poisoning. In 1967, they were officially listed as endangered, with only 23 condors surviving worldwide in 1982. By the late 1980s, all remaining wild condors were placed in a captive breeding program, which proved highly successful. Now there are over 300 California condors in California, Arizona, Utah, and Baja California.
Joseph L. James, Chairman of the Yurok Tribe, said, “For the last 20 years, the Yurok Tribe has been actively engaged in the restoration of the rivers, forests and prairies in our ancestral territory. The reintroduction of the condor is one component of this effort to reconstruct the diverse environmental conditions that once existed in our region. We are extremely proud of the fact that our future generations will not know a world without prey-go-neesh.”
The California condor remains listed as endangered. The US Fish & Wildlife Service explains that the bird’s primary threat is lead poisoning caused by eating lead shots when feeding on carcasses.
The new California condor release facility for the reintroduction of condors to Yurok Ancestral Territory and Redwood National Park is scheduled to be in operation in fall 2021 or spring 2022.